Lopaz | a sonnet for my grandfather

Lopaz

And then the Lamb invited me to look,

and I beheld a faithful flowing steed

with one glorious hoof atop the Book

my life faithfully kept in word and deed.

My ears perceived a gentle rising call

emitted from a distant room beyond

my sight, and all those lost to me were tall

and gathered locked in bright eyes wet and strong.

In life I rode in boughs the wooden frame

painted to color life but pulseless ran

amidst the kingdoms, rivers, stones, by name

I called them mine; yet now I rein my plan.

Gesturing to the stable my mother

stands before my sisters and my brothers.

I wrote this in honor of my grandfather, H. H. Sims. He is transitioning from this life to the next, the last of 10 children raised in Fayette County, West Virginia. Lopaz is the name they gave their rocking horse; he’s really more of a gliding horse. He has served many children through the generations!

The Angel of Lost Things | a poem by Jeremy Paden

Note: This poem by my friend Jeremy Paden is a beautiful , appropriate closing to this week’s essay postings about memory and loss. Thank you, JP.

The Angel of Lost Things

is not the saddest
of angels, there are times,
though, when it does
abandon all hope—

the misplaced letter,
the child who follows
the wrong pair of pants
in the holiday crowd,
the watch lost on the lawn,
taken off to play
football or Frisbee.

It knows where each
and every lost thing is
but it does not speak
these places. Instead
it keeps them close
to its heart, it worries
over them until found.

There are times,
like when an ailing
grandmother wraps
her opals and diamonds
in toilet paper taken
from a McDonald’s
restroom and in her
dementia she cannot
remember if the bundle
was left on the tray
or placed in her baggage,
when the angel knows
but cannot reach through
the haze to nudge
the faulty memory.

It understands
its sacred duty.
That all things lost
should be watched over,
that nothing—even
the books and photos
lost to fire, to mold,
the stuffed bears left
in leaf piles and taken
to landfills—are beyond
being found, recovered.

But there are times when
the levee breaks, the rivers
rise and the mud and silt
of five generations,
all the pain displaced
throughout centuries,
covers everything with loss.

Times when it would rather
be the angel of found things,
the angel that gathers
unto itself minds
and causes and children
and hearts and heirlooms,
the angel that mends
and heals and rejoices,
that leads the congregation
down the dusty road,
singing and dancing
before the altar found.

Jeremy Dae Paden is Associate Professor of Spanish and Latin American Literature at Transylvania University. He was born in Italy and raised in Central America and the Caribbean. He currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky, and is a member of the Affrilachian Poets. You can read some of his new poetry at Still: The Journal.

Poet photo credit, Jeremy Paden. Angel image credit, PhotoBucket.

This World Is Not My Home by Jeremy Paden (part 2)

II.

Maybe her name was Pat. I can’t recall.

My high school years were a procession of medical mission and Habitat for Humanity work groups. Two, three, even more, a year would come down. When I wasn’t working the makeshift pharmacy, stuffing bags full of medicine, giving children swigs of mebendezole, explaining the doctor’s instructions to patients and having them recite them back to me, I was translating for doctors, dentists, nurses, or house building crews. People came and went. A week of work, a day at the beach, and they were gone.

Pat was in her early fifties. Had a son in a rock and roll band named “The Grievers.” She was an honest, blue-collar American, drove a forklift in a warehouse for a living, made ties for the men in her life, had paid her house off years ago. This was her first trip out of the country and she’d decided to come on a short-term medical mission trip to the Caribbean.

She’d packed little American flags in her luggage to pin to shirts. I refused to wear one. Missing home and wanting to celebrate in some way, to establish some kind of solidarity with fellow Americans, she asked us what we most loved about the U.S.. I answered, “Not a lot.” I don’t recall much of the conversation after that. I remember the sadness in her eyes. I remember stumbling between my regret and a need to defend myself.

The tape I play in my mind has me unfolding before her the history of Anglo-American aggression in Latin America since Teddy’s gunboat diplomacy days. But my history back then was much more piecemeal. There were the bits garnered from second grade Sandinista history primers. In 1981 we attended The American School in Managua, Nicaragua. The revolution had already happened and everyone was teaching from government-vetted books. There were the snippets of Castro’s epic four-hour discourses caught on the radio or talked about admiringly by my middle school teachers in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

There was the fact that our encounter happened on this island, an island LBJ invaded in 1965 to keep it from turning Commie.

That the U.S. Marines left once order was restored in the form of a man who governed for twelve years with the use of death squads.

That people I loved knew victims.

Maybe I said something about Chile; maybe I didn’t. I probably did say something about Iran-Contra. After all, the U.S.-backed Contra insurgency was why we left Nicaragua.

It was the Fourth of July.

“Tilaran, Costa Rica. Dad was working with Nicaraguan refugees. My brother and I had just finished a run in the rain. We were supposed to have smiled; I was hungry.”

This World Is Not My Home by Jeremy Paden (part 1)

This World Is Not My Home | by Jeremy Paden

I.

In my first passport picture, I sit on my mother’s lap. Beside us stands my sister. Vietnam had just ended, and Dad, whose number was never called during his undergraduate years in the States, found himself needing to choose between obligatory military service in the Italian army or, thanks to a 1972 change in the law, some form of authorized community service. A conscientious objector, he chose the latter. We spent the better part of 1976, the year I turned two, in Nigeria. Dad, an advanced medical student dreaming of becoming a medical missionary, worked in a hospital.

“Mr. Sunshine” – the writer age 20 months in Milan.

My earliest memory, perhaps, is not my sister’s nightmare on our first night in country, though they say her screams about “the elephants coming” woke me. Nor is it our disobedience, crossing the street to eat our neighbors’ food. That story, too, was told to me. It’s being put down in an open air market in Lagos, Nigeria, by a tired mother. The air was pungent with fresh fish and foods I did not recognize, but it’s not like I have a clear, sharp recollection. It’s colors, shapes, smells, bright tropical light, bustle, and unintelligible language. I have one other memory from Nigeria that I know is mine. Which is to say, not from stories told me, not from pictures taken. It too is vague. And it’s standing in a thatched-roof, open-air hut, people singing church songs in Yoruba. I don’t know how early most people remember. I suppose these were imprinted only because Lagos is nothing like Milan, Italy, where Dad was studying medicine.

Though we left Italy when I was only four, I have a catalogue of memories from those years, all of which are, I presume, from after Nigeria. All are also rather banal: me standing naked and crying on an Italian beach, opening a Kinder egg in a Fiat in some parking lot, disobeying my grandfather by climbing a ladder into an old hayloft and crying for him to get me down. But over the course my childhood, as we moved from place to place, I’d call them up, then zoom in and out on the grain of the wood on that barn or the stitching of the car’s seat, though I can’t remember the color of the car or the material of the upholstery.

Like my father, I am an American citizen born abroad and declared at a consulate soon after my birth. By the time I left for college, I’d lived on three continents, one isthmus, and one archipelago. Another way of adding this up is six countries, four U.S. states, ten cities, and around 18 discreet residences, not counting the bed under my aunt and uncle’s stairs in Goleta, California, where I worked as a security guard for an RV camp and at a roadside organic food stand the eight months before heading off to college.

In a Man’s Voice: Poems & Essay by Jeremy Paden

Jeremy Dae Paden was born in Italy and raised in Latin America. He teaches Spanish at Transylvania University, He is published in Calíope, a critical journal of poetry of Spain and the Americas during the Renaissance and Baroque periods.  He is also a member of the Affrilachian Poets and a collaborator in Rose Tree Writers.

Though Jeremy and I have only met in person once, we have somehow found a writing connection, as well as a parenting connection, that bring me tremendous joy. I don’t know anyone else who, upon hearing that I was dyeing absorbant crystals red and brown with wine and coffee for my child’s science project, would have asked if I would send him some more detail so he might work it into a poem.

Jeremy isn’t a poet when he has time to be one. He is one when he wakes and when he sleeps, every day. I can imagine standing behind him in the grocery store and hearing him practicing words about the spiritual ebb and flow of the human psyche as he ponders the nature of standing in lines.

I am grateful to learn from his world view, and I look forward to sharing his 8-part Essay on Childhood: This World Is Not My Home. You may read some of Dr. Paden’s poetry online via the following links, and I hope you will!

You can read more about the 2012 Essays on Childhood writers here.

Men, Writing, Expression: Their Way

John of thebeautifuldue.

Writer Michael Powelson introduced me to thebeautifuldue — the gospel according to john.

(Michael shared an essay last year with the Essay on Childhood project: http://michaelpowelson.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/the-best-medicine-2/)

I loved reading this poem the first time and have re-read it several times since. It is a combination by the poet of “several male sources.” While it could be the experience of just one man’s childhood influence, it pulls together pieces of various lives to tell the story that may very well speak many men.

I encourage writers for this year’s project to consider unusual ways you might tell your story using creative nonfiction or even poetry if that feels right. It needs to be your story, but some truths are more clear with non-linear narrative or even prose poems.

Enjoy (and read more than once) weak but strong….

weak but strong….

‘Your shoulders are shit, Sport. Probably all those dips.’
Doctor Welch first called me ‘sport’ when I was thirteen.
 
I had wanted to put on a little muscle, maybe go out for
football or wrestling, so Mom took me in for a physical.
 
Any excuse to see Peter Welch M.D. was okay by her.
She’d had a grand crush on the man ever since Dad left.
 
I discovered later that was the main reason for Dad’s adios. 
Peter Welch had played football at SMU before med school.
 
Mom would always emphasize he played ‘tight end’ and giggle. 
I love the woman but she’s never had both oars in the water.
 
‘But you said bodyweight exercises were the way to
avoid injury. What about primum non nocere? No harm?’
 
I felt compelled to remind the physician of his sworn
oath, a veiled attempt to justify my chosen vows of
 
faithfully beginning and ending each day for ten years 
with chin ups and dips, the latter my forte. They were
 
my lauds and vigils, repetitive ups and downs, blood-flushed
prayers that Dad might come to his senses and run home. 
 
As a senior in college I performed 6 sets of 25 reps twice a day.
That Christmas I learned my father had died back east, alone.  
 
‘Hippocrates, Schmockrates. Your greatest strength is also
your greatest weakness, Sport. That’s the oath to swear by.’
 

Mountain Word: “Ars Poetica” read by Jeremy Paden

This post is a re-blog of an original post by Mountain Word on July 4, 2011.  Click here to read more about Jeremy on Esse Diem: Easter Sunday, 2010 and Poetic Ruminations from a Small Town.  I attended this reading, and saw what you see on this video, live.  I am pleased to have the chance to share this reading with you.  Something about hearing the spoken word by the poet himself is simply magical.

I wish you could have been there.

Affrilachian poet Jeremy Paden reads “Ars Poetica,” his take on the art of poetry. Paden is an assistant professor of Spanish at Transylvania University in Lexington, KY. His poems have been published in the Atlanta Review, Borderlands and elsewhere.

This is the first of a series of video excerpts MountainWord is editing from a two-hour reading by Affrilachian poets and open mic spoken word artists at Bluegrass Cafe on the final day of FestivALL 2011 in Charleston, W.Va. The event was put together by poet and organizer Crystal Good.