Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Blue Willow:



In the dirt of the ditch running down
Dave’s Holler, as the concealed jay, maybe Dave
Himself if there’s anything to metempsychosis,
Grouched that there was something inside the boundary
Less a problem than a snake or owl, but acting strangely
Nonetheless,
I graveled out a chip, blue and white, like his feathers.
On it, Spode’s famous chinoiserie bridge, under a
Frond of the cobalt willow tree, but
Something amiss, only two tiny figures crossing
The watery abyss –
The lovers, I suppose, sans her pursuing
Daddy with his whip.
Someone better versed in porcelain than me
Could date it and deny
It sat on Mary’s table.
But let’s say it did.

At sunset snowbanks sometimes
Are aglow with gold and cobalt hues,
Wool dyed with indigo is half the weft
In the coverlet on their bed (she spun and died the thread
Herself), an autumn sky can seem deep blue,
But not much in this wild place is
In 1822. Twelve winters she’s set out
The supper table here – William and Jonathon
were six and nine the first year, now they’re grown
men; Jack, Matt, Lou and Liz, the only girl followed them,
Little David – (and here, I think, she must have sighed, wondering
if and how he would survive. At six she can see he is a dwarf.)
Daniel is two and must be weaned,
Before the next one comes in spring. In her womb she feels
Him move, and prays
She doesn’t lose another baby - like the one, counted
Though he never breathed, that made
Daniel a seventh son.

Woman to man, Man to woman the hexing power
Passes, but it’s inborn in the seventh boy.

Outside the one frost-rimed window glass
The blue and gold has deepened into black,
And the cabin hunkers down to let
The cold wind roar above the shakes.
David will be making his way
Back down from the barn with the milk.
She rakes the potatoes and onions
From the ashes on the hearth, and lifts
The fragrant black iron kettle off
Its hook. The pork smells good.
The table’s set with the willow plates –
The pair of swallows, so the
Story tells
Were husband and wife before they were birds.

The hinge rasp fuses with the rasping jay,
A swirl of snow comes through the
Door, but the lamp goes got
As the years rush in
And nothing is here
In my hand
But a shard.

8 comments:

SBD said...

oh, tis so lovely.
Womanhood. I rake these thoughts across the coals of my mind...warm with the memory. Filled with pride of my ancestry.

Dan Dutton said...

Thanks! I'll keep working then.

Cathy said...

Did Little David give his name to the Holler? Did he live to grow up?

Dan Dutton said...

The holler is not only hidden (in plain sight!) but has no name as far as I know - it's really too small. I'm calling it that for want of a prior name.

Little David did grow up, at least to his 40s, married and had several children - then, I don't yet know how, both he and his wife died and left their children orphans, adopted, strangely, outside the family. Hey now, wait a minute, the story will out in time!

So much research, and so slow - yikes!

Cathy said...

I'll shut up now. ;-} This is better than an old-time movie serial.

Dan Dutton said...

I bargained with Bobby today about his rate - as model, character, informant. Half of the profits? I asked. He said he'd take a third. When they make the movie, I asked, who should play you, Brad Pitt? Not pretty enough, he replied, I'll do it myself.

Cathy said...

Oh, Bobby is way prettier than Pitt.

Dan Dutton said...

Ha! That's what I told him.

Well I just discovered that my cousin's version of the family tree, which I've been relying on for names, omits a bunch & is wrong on some. I've found several daughters of David & Mary, including a Sarah - so this poem will have to be reworked to include them. Oh lordy, pulling one rhyme out may collapse this house of cards. "Historical accuracy" - more like hysterical in my case.

On the plus side, I just found a confirmation that the hidden holler IS the site of David and Mary's homestead.