to poets everywhere
I've often been startled by the poetry inserted in an ordinary conversation--and the poets who utter them.
Once, while watching a documentary about farmers in a dying farm community who couldn't seem to attract or hold enough women to keep the town going, I heard the interviewer question one tired looking man.
"Why don't you just move somewhere else and find a wife?"
The farmer looked at the man and said, simply, "You can't pack a thousand acres in a suitcase."
My own grandmother was such a poet. I discovered this one afternoon as we sat together staring out a window and missing Grandpa.
He seemed too strong to ever die, so naturally, we expected him to live forever. Grandpa was the kind of man who filled a room; a man whose strength was overshadowed only by his gentleness. He could hoist me to his shoulder in one fluid motion, carry bags of grain and toss bales of hay and wrangle stubborn milk cows, but he was equally adept at delivering newborn calves and picking flowers for Grandma.
The man was a life-long boot-wearer; you’d never see wingtips or tennis shoes on those cowboy feet. He drank his coffee thick and black, laughed fully and often, knew and sang all the best old ballads, and rose at dawn Monday through Friday to deliver gravel in his burly, white dump truck with the words “C.A. Hill Trucking” painted on the doors. So when, at the age of 61, he went into the bedroom one morning and died—his heart exploding in an instant and dropping him to the corn-silk colored carpet below—we weren’t ready.
For weeks, our family moved around each other in a foggy blur. Dave understood when I told him I needed to stay with Grandma awhile. He’d come out to the farm in the evenings after work and sit in silence with us for an hour or two before she and I headed for bed. Sometimes, when she thought I was asleep, I’d hear her cry.
“Clifford,” she whispered once, in the darkness. “Oh, my Clifford.”
During the day we’d sit together in the kitchen; a room now emptied of his presence and filled instead with grief. Through the sliding glass window we could watch the highway at the far end of the farm. I’d see her eyes travel from one vehicle to the next and I’d wonder if she was waiting for Grandpa’s truck to file past, waiting to see him turning for home.
We could sit like that for hours—her watching, me waiting for her to speak. And one afternoon, in this quiet space, she summed up the enormity of her anguish with a single, heart-rending sentence.
“The world is full of white trucks.”
Listen today, and hear the poems that will otherwise drift unnoticed. Let me know what you hear.
Adapted and excerpted from Inconceivable: Finding Peace in the Midst of Infertility, ©Shannon Woodward 2006, Cook Communications. All rights reserved.
Labels: my grandparents