Foil Roses

So, I have my homemade smartphone camera stand (which basically means a wrapping paper roll, rubber band, some tape and an old mic stand), and finally motivated to record a few things.

It still feels really weird to pair my face with my poems. I’m not used to looking at myself that way, and find it just…so incredibly strange! lol. Still, in the interest of getting things on this blog as quickly as possible, I’ve decided there are just some things I’m not going to worry about too much at this point.  I’m not going to wait for the house to be silent as a mouse, for one. It happens to be today because the roomie is getting home late and the temperature of the day means nothing is running – not so much as a fan. But, I think my readers would probably have more stuff with maybe a humming fan, or some minor ambient noise, than less stuff in general, and this will help me get things released at a more steady clip.  So I’m not going to fuss over a tv going on the opposite end of the house (it shouldn’t be TOO noticeable, being the opposite end of the house and all), or if my recording area can totally stand to be organized in some more video-friendly way, or whether or not I should comb my hair or change my shirt before recording (eff those little details, really.)  And, how you interact with the posts will be my gauge of whether or not it’s working.

Now, let’s talk about the poem a bit. When I was very young, I had three grandfathers, two grandmothers, and one step-grandmother. Or, so I thought. That’s more or less what I was told.  If we’re being entirely specific, I had two grandfathers and a pop-pop, which I was not entirely certain was the same thing until someone told me it was. If we’re going to be really precise about biological relations, though, I found out at some point that what I actually had was 2 grandfathers, one grandmother, and a bunch of relatives who weren’t actually related to me at all.  This is sort of what happens when your biological family moves so far away that visiting regularly just isn’t possible.

I actually was never very close to my biological grandparents. It’s not like we had anything against those parts of the family, for the most part, but one was in Indiana, another in Kentucky, another down in Florida. I was Jersey born and raised. We were separated by distance, so while I knew they existed, they were mostly foreign entities.

However, my father was mostly raised by his step-father here in NJ. And, that person was my Pop-pop, the grandparent I saw regularly and the one that rated, even though it turned out there was, technically, no biological connection.  Imagine my confusion, as a very small child, when I found out that if my lineage was Irish/German, with a spattering of English and Hungarian, that it was literally impossible for my grandparent to be Italian, and just as impossible for me to have 3 grandfathers. I learned young that family ties can be confusing.

Blood relative or not, though, Pop-pop was really the only grandparent I had a close relationship with.  He was also the first person in my life to leave it. I don’t know what was wrong with him (I have a few suspicions). I don’t even know his last name.

What I do know is that his absence left a hole in the family that was never filled, and it took me a very long time to find the words to write about him.  What I remember most, in the end, is the way that, during the season, before we would leave his house, he would always trim off a rose for me and wrap the stem in tin foil so the thorns didn’t stab my fingers.

It’s the little things that stay with us.

Foil Roses

When Pop-Pop died, he was a tree:

growing branches from his head, from his fingers,

roots from his toes.

By extension, he was growing closer and closer to the ground.

I didn’t recognize him in the hospital:

surely, if there was Oak of Ash in my blood

someone would have told me

when I had to write that report about my origins.

All they mentioned was the rain.

I followed the line of his knotty knuckles

to pin my childish drawing to a corkboard

wondering if, under the circumstances, hedge clippers might have been

a more useful ‘get well soon’ gift.

I drew him roses:

The ones he would carefully trim from the bush nestled on the driveway side of his corner lot,

carry into the kitchen, meticulously wrap in silver foil to protect my tiny fingers,

and just before parting, hand down to me

like little red promises of unconditional love.

I wanted to return that gift in kind.

When he held my tiny hand,

he couldn’t fully close his fingers.

It was like I was being told:

It’s okay.

We’re all dying slowly, putting down roots,

trying to stop time.

But, whatever comes after this is another story,

and not mine to tell.

I remember the flag my father brought home from the funeral,

folded in upon itself so precisely that it was easy to imagine it a cocoon,

from which someday, stories would break free and be born.

but what I really wanted to know was if there were roses,

if anyone remembered to wrap them in foil.

I didn’t know how to ask why he left so soon.

I didn’t know that even after I’d grown,

I would still be trying to grasp the empty space

where his presence resonates like a lit match in a dark room,

casting more shadows than light.

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