“Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings.
Not all things are blest, but the seeds of all things are blest.
The blessing is in the seed.”
Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), American poet
In the beginning, when we are children, everything is new and magical and we have an appetite for detail that lends itself to poetry . . .
As children, for me and my cousins, there were trips from Brooklyn to New Jersey. Sometimes we went to Green Lake (swimming) or Parsippany (relatives). We went often to Paramus to visit my godfather and his family. In the ’60s there were still a few small family-owned farms and some unpaved roads. Back then, the now huge and famous Bergen Mall was a modest plaza. There was a diner with cream colored counters, a slate-grey floor, and watresses in bleached-blond beehive hair and pink lipstick. We ate onion rings for the first time there. They were sweet, beer battered and deep-fried to a crisp golden-brown.
No matter where we traveled in Jersey it was a good time, but Watchung was best. In those days, the population was a scant 2,000. My Uncle Charlie’s house sat tranquil on a hill layered with green lawns, tall trees and orchards. It was at his place during summer vacation one year that the writing seed planted itself in my child heart.
I wonder if that old Watchung home still stands
or has it been demolished by developers building
rows on rows of barracks-like housing where
big maples used to rise to line the roadway
Driving up in an ancient V8 Ford Woody, ramshakle
and well-loved, a kaleidoscope of colors greeted us -
The burnished bronze of our uncle’s skin and the
brown-black of his doe eyes and dense curley hair
The azure sky and snowy clouds tumbling down to
top the perfect juicy purple of ripe Italian plums
and the brisk reds of beefsteak and plum tomatoes
The true-green of the too-long grass feathering the
rich chocolaty shades of the well-mulched earth
That antique home was pristine white with green trim
and such a busy, welcoming, wrap-around porch,
often with bushels of fruit and vegetables standing
in the company of freshly cut flowers piled and tossed
All waiting . . . for what and for whom?
The airy rooms were waiting too with windows
and doors thrown open to children like me breezing
in from the The City with our pallid skin and eyes
burning to see our uncle and some untouched nature
Well-worn carpets, Persian and Arabian, brushed bare feet
as searching room-to-room for hidden treasures and history
I marveled at the accoutrements of other decades -
the water pump, the dumb-waiter, the pull-chain water closet
Each room was a marvel of furnishings, fine wood and hand-turned
Dresser drawers lined with newspapers, yellowed and dissolving with age
advertising corsets, questionable cures, and other ephemera of this
same place in times mostly forgotten except for stale news
telling its stories to the silence in chests mostly empty and untouched
The mammoth tables in the large, white, high-ceilinged kitchen and
the stately dining room with its chandelier and heavy drapes spoke of
more formal multi-generational dinners before these days of greater
mobility and the tech distractions of iThis and smartThat·
The peaceable, sturdy safe-haven of that white Watchung home
matched the steady embrace of its woods and orchards
where a child like me could lie on the hardy ground,
sun blinding bright, browning spindly arms and legs, small body
soaking in rich damp earth, mind yawning, stretching, awakening
Imagination rising in mists of violet-grey shot with silver stories
and flaxen poems finding their way into the pages of a notebook
Such plump-sweet visions set free by that mystical place -
I wonder if it still stands in Watchung, if it remembers me
And how I loved it - I still do
This is an old, old poem with some minor modifications, an update (changing TV for tech toys), and an intro.
. . . and thus we begin another week . . .
©2007, 2008, 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved, licensing for online publications is nonnegotiable and requires permission, attribution, link to this site, my copyright, no modification, noncommercial only and does not imply permission to include the work in the site’s printed collections or anthologies.
Photo courtesy of morgueFile