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Old 02-20-2009, 11:27 AM   #1
Taylor514ce
Actively passive.
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: US
Device: Sony PRS-505/LC
Grandfather Series, first published in Modern Haiku

STRINGS

fishing rods & lures
the hours he must have spent...
layered dust

Grandfather's attic, though he's dead and Grandma lives alone. His house, his yard, his things, even his widow. How many years? And still his shadow. All these things! Longbows, unstrung, under cobwebs.

then too young to hold
the bowstring taut
my whip-stung ear


Colors die. Those Greek gods, limbless and grey? Once were brightest red, garish blue, full-limbed and gaudy. Time curls the edges, fades the pigments. Her palette, sepia-stained.

photo album
young men wearing old clothes
and odd-looking hats


leaning on guitar cases, boasting, a car behind them. The car might be green. The guitar might yet be played. The case tattered, fretwork loose and chipped, but the strings look good. Tight. A slight air, a breath, could stir them. Even the whisper of a ghost.

guitar strings tight
only the spider
tries to strum them



TURTLE SOUP


Grandpa and the snapping-turtle story: on his skiff, poling through the swamp in search of dinner. Check and bait each trap and cage, and then

dripping cage
the warm, green
weight of it


spills onto the boards amid the mess of ropes and gear. Mossy smell, the lazy swing of club across the skull, then lean and push against the pole.

hard, dull thud
silence...
turtle's thick tongue


Ah, but the sneaky thing not dead! Slow-motion stealth (the hours that pass in Grandpa's hands), muffled steps in the darkened green of night, the heavy swarm and lull of insects-- all tumbled back to present in the quick snap-flash of jaws around the boot. Thick blood swells and oozes over black rubber. The tightening! (we all clench our teeth)... the pain! (vein throbs at his temple)...

even now
whispering
'watch out!'


Almost passes out, fumble, fumbles for something, a knife-- his gnarled hand gropes, grips a rusted saw. Grandpa: boot filled up with blood, chalk-white face, sawing on the rough, tight neck, boat adrift. Snap of chorded muscle, then slowly prying loose the death-slackening jaws.

He eats it. That night. He smiles his turtle-smile. Hooded eyes, skinny neck, blinks at each of us in turn. Oh yes, turtle soup... best story ever tasted.

space between
storyteller's hands--
childrens' wide eyes



I REMEMBER MOST OF ALL THEIR HANDS

Clifford's had the tattered feel of pages from a family Bible; smooth, yet crumpled, dry but warm. Perhaps the years of dealing poker cards, thumbing the edges until the gloss had turned to sheen, the sheen in time rubbed dull to match the parchment texture of his palms... or fiercely gripping pool cues, twisting the wood against the calluses, around and around as he paced the table's length; perhaps these things in time had worn those lines as deep and long as life in Clifford's hands.

scratch shot
off the eight-ball--
the air turns blue


But Thomas, my mother's father, his hands always felt like talc. And cool, always cool. The fingers were finely tuned to minutiae: the tiny wood-tick burrowed into the hound's thick pelt, the intricate inscribing on the surface of the silver spoons and forks he used to craft trinkets for his daughters, simple rings and bangles. His hands had the feel of the final years, the tissue-like translucence of growing old.

walking cane
he trained from a sapling
velvet smooth


No final robust wave from the neat front-lawn for him (Clifford's hand, waving to Dorothy; sweat, and grease from the lawnmower, and then the sudden grip of heart-attack) no-- he'd leave no coarse and ragged edges behind, but rather a soft erosion, a gentle walk across a carpet grown imperceptibly threadbare, frayed and frail until you saw the boards, splintered, underneath.

patty-cake man
my son's soft palm
softens mine
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