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Digging Up Old Bones with my Father (8/17/89)

William Goresko 1951 (Philadelphia, PA) – 2008 (Willow Grove, PA)

Arriving in the midday heat
We were welcomed by the cat calls
Of the winged choir above.
From across the street the waves
Broke low, crashing endlessly
On the grey sand in long thin lines
Etching ever changing messages,
Like billion year old starlight,
Whispers of those wanderers,
The waylaid, and the drowned
Who died far from the embrace of
Other mothers and lovers,
Their bitter salt tears
Following them ashore
Or to the bottom of the sea.

But father, I did not drive
To the continent's edge,
Losing my way on the Jersey Turnpike
To see the sights in this town
Where I spent summers as a youth.
I came to help you sift through
The ruin and rubble of your life
In search of a slender ledge
On which you might perch,
And from that vantage point
Feel the wind and watch the sun
Rise and set a few more times.

We sat across from one another
Talking, and like the rising tide,
A lifetime's hoardings of
Anger and resentment arose
From within me washing over you
Wearing down all resistance,
Ebbing and flowing,
Ebbing and flowing,
Finally ebbing away.

My anger now spent, I listened
As you coughed and sputtered;
An old jalopy starting up
Out of tune, all cylinders
Not firing, groaning and rumbling
About the rotten breaks
Life handed you, dispensing blame
Evenly, and while you droned on
I looked around your house.

Everywhere were pieces of our lives,
Strewn about, so many broken shells
In which the sea no longer sang;
A rusted bird cage, door frozen wide,
Mourned the loss of its lithe
And sonorous occupant who graced
Our little house during my childhood:
Boxes of mouldering "National Geographics"
Filled with pictures and stories
Of exotic peoples, wondrous lands -
Places which my young heart
Told me must be more exciting
Than my staid and routine world:
On a shelf, an iron ladle
And chunks of lead in a plumber's kettle
Waiting to be brought briefly to life -
Materials and tools of a trade
Toiled at for a couple of years
When I was an infant:
My mother's old and musty clothes,
"Shmatas" as she referred to them,
From different periods of her life -
One last link with the wife
At whose nursing home bedside
You grieve every evening:
And an entire wall stacked high
With canvases, picture frames
Art books and half completed paintings -
Constant reminders of an inner fire
And vision put on hold when I was born,
(A sacrifice we were not allowed to forget),
Lost forever.

I remember as a child how you sat hunched
Most evenings over your journals,
Those dry and dusty tomes,
Recording mundane and unhappy details,
The minutia of your life,
Etching in elegant script
Like a Talmudic scholar.
Now you spoke tenderly, reverently
Of how with the turn of a page
You could travel back through time,
A salmon swimming upstream
Towards its place of origin,
And I understood
That this crazy quilt of objects
Littering your house was the glue
Holding your life together,
A bleached skeleton on a secluded shore.
Slowly, as evening light
Lapped at the windows, I came to see
How much of that same glue
Held my life together and bound me to you
Though I knew not for what shore
I was destined.

As we prepared to leave,
That sultry summer evening,
The moon rose from the waves
In a fiery orange ball
Then disappeared into the clouds.
We drove home that night through mist
And waning moonlight,
The smell of a million pine trees
Breathing in unison
Leaving me drunk with ecstasy.
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Submitted by cuwoodford on April 29, 2021

Modified on March 05, 2023

3:04 min read

Quick analysis:

Scheme xabcdxxefxbfxgd xhxxxijhxxkx lmbxixNNx xxxfnxxxx xxxmxxoapxxnxqqjxxxxxjjmnxxxlxxl xxxxjxldxxxkoxilgediigx xncxxxepkd
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 3,311
Words 610
Stanzas 7
Stanza Lengths 15, 12, 9, 9, 32, 23, 10

William Goresko

William Goresko was an avid landscape photographer, a lover of backpacking and the outdoors, a voracious reader of classical literature and ardent fan of classical music as well as 60s rock and folk music. He also loved cooking and watching Sixers basketball games. He was a floor sander by trade. In 1984 at age 32 he was rendered quadriplegic in a car accident and lived for 24 more years. He retained his love of life and had a strong will to live. All poems were written a few years after the accident, typed one letter at a time, using a sip and puff device. Poems were submitted by his wife Cheryl. more…

All William Goresko poems | William Goresko Books

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