Tag Archives: poetry

Poems from My Dad

I’ve been going through boxes in my family’s effort to clean and organize our home (a battle that has been going on for six years now). I opened a heavy cardboard box, the musty smell lingering in my nostrils. The box is full of pictures—hundreds, maybe over a thousand–from my Dad’s life. There are an inordinate amount of pictures of me, but also many, many pictures of people I don’t recognize at all. I have my work cut out for me.

Dad passed away when I was thirteen. He was 46 when I was born, and already had adult children, so there was a whole life there that I knew very little about. I won’t bore/sadden you with details of how just about everything pertaining to my Dad disappeared for the rest of my youth, but suffice it to say that this box is essentially all I have of him. It was given to me when I was about 24 years old. Since then, I occasionally pull things out and piece together what his life must have been like, and what HE was like, beyond the few memories I personally have of him.

My dad was many things: Teamster, welder, carpenter, salesman, bartender (I think–judging from pictures), terrible father, awesome father, good friend, genealogist, dutiful son….. and poet. I am going to put up one of his poems for all (my 4 readers) to see:Lee Lay

Restless Soul (by Lee Lay)

Like the winds that blow thru the high skies

and the waves that roll thru the sea

Like the shifting sands of the desert

is this restless soul in me.

Like the birds that fly thru the air so free

and the wild things that roam alone

Is this restless soul inside of me

that won’t let me stay at home.

To have the things that other men have

I know can never be

As long as this restless soul in me

keeps yearning to be free.

 

I’m like the wind and like the birds

I’m like the waves and the sand

To stay in one place very long

is more than I can stand.

 

All you happy people have pity upon me

For I can never be like you

My restless soul

Won’t let me free.

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To me, Dad was silly, strong, mischievous, and devil-may-care–this poem, and a few others like it, taught me that he had a melancholy inside that most didn’t see. I wish I could have had more of an opportunity to know him.

The good news is that I feel him with me all the time. I also see him in the mirror, and in my children. Lastly, I know that I will be with him again when at last we all meet in heaven.

The Power of Poetry, and a farewell to Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou passed away today. I wanted to post some great poem of hers, but as I read them, I realized–and this is going to be sooo unpopular–I don’t really like reading her poetry.  Now, if I can hear HER read her poetry, that’s a totally different story. Listening to Maya Angelou, even just hearing her speak, touches chords in my heart, makes me sit up and pay attention. There’s something about the cadence and timbre of her voice, the emotion in her words…… Hearing her recite her poetry gives me goose flesh, and depending on the subject, brings me to tears.  If you have the opportunity to see a video of Dr. Angelou reciting the following poem, do it.  Just reading it doesn’t do it justice. But here it is. This is “Amazing Peace” by Dr. Maya Angelou:

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes

And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.

Flood waters await us in our avenues.

 

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche

Over unprotected villages.

The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

 

We question ourselves.

What have we done to so affront nature?

We worry God.

Are you there? Are you there really?

Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

 

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,

Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope

And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.

The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,

Come the way of friendship.

 

It is the Glad Season.

Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.

Flood waters recede into memory.

Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us

As we make our way to higher ground.

 

Hope is born again in the faces of children

It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.

Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,

Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

 

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.

At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.

We listen carefully as it gathers strength.

We hear a sweetness.

The word is Peace.

It is loud now. It is louder.

Louder than the explosion of bombs.

 

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.

It is what we have hungered for.

Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.

A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.

Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

 

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.

We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.

We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.

Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.

We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,

Implore you, to stay a while with us.

So we may learn by your shimmering light

How to look beyond complexion and see community.

 

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

 

On this platform of peace, we can create a language

To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

 

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ

Into the great religions of the world.

We jubilate the precious advent of trust.

We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.

All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices

To celebrate the promise of Peace.

 

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,

Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.

Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.

Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves

And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.

Peace, My Sister.

Peace, My Soul.”

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In thinking about the power of Dr. Angelou’s words over the decades, I question: What is it about poetry that touches hearts and minds so deeply, and so easily?

I believe poetry at its heart is an exchange of emotions between the poet and the reader.  When I write a poem, I distill my emotions onto the page. I may use rhyme, meter, or various effects to convey my feelings, but that is the goal. When you read my poem, you see and feel my words through the windows of your own eyes, your own experiences, your own psychic filters (not in a metaphysical sense, just the perception of your mind). Your imagination makes its own connection, a connection made all the more powerful because it is tied to YOUR emotions.

What is your favorite poem?  Do you like traditional rhyming poems, or do you prefer free-form?