This is the first week that I join with a few others who publish or write something relating to poetry every Thursday (Poetry Thursday). And just like a first-time student, I didn't get the assignment exactly right...The theme this week was to walk around for a day and listen to people talking -- and build a theme around the snippets of conversation that you hear.
I started writing a poem about neighborhood voices when I was a kid. The poem had a mind of its own and took off in a different direction. It still speaks of voices, but from a different viewpoint: hearing the voices of those around you before they become faint voices of the past.
I grew up next to a cemetery --
played baseball in an empty field
with headstones a distant home run to right;
rode sleds down a snow-covered hill
yet to be occupied by the dead
We were a neighborhood full of kids --
we feared the voices that might come
from the shadows of stones in moonlight,
but were daring enough to shelter ourselves
in sleeping bags near pitcher’s mound
We could read history in those acres --
a timeline running uphill in reverse order
spanning nearly ten generations of lives;
the voices began their story with hard facts
marking a calendar with birth and death
Some of the older pages had more to say --
verse scrolled along the bottom or
a carved picture framing the top,
epitaphs to give color to their lives
before the drab cold stone crumbled and forgot
My father’s grave stands in full view
of the house where my mother no longer lives,
but his voice has little to do with that place,
and so much more to do with who I am
even as the distance of place and time grows deeper.
I search the voices of those who surround me
listening to the essence and beauty of their story;
I do not want to wait until dates and numbers
are etched upon a stone planted in distant hills,
waiting for the feet of a wary child chasing a ball.