“Don’t make the joke. Don’t. Purloin is not a steak made from the side of a cat.”
“Not even funny.”
Now the prompt is out of the way… 😉
My old speech stays in a black leather notebook my dad gave me in the sixties when I started writing poetry. I don’t know when or where the notebook entered my dad’s life, but I’ve had it since, I imagine, 1964. The very first poem I wrote (on a typewriter) is in here. It’s a paean to nature (big surprise). The Rod McKuenesque love poems I wrote in high school are also here. The poems that so impressed my middle-aged college poetry instructor (so much so that he tried to kiss me) are in here.
There are love letters. A few letters from students. A letter from my best high school friend (with a poem). Seems like we were all poetry crazed back then.
There are two poems by my dad.
One of them he wrote by hand when he was in the hospital getting ACTH treatments for MS. I guess my mom had been there most of the day. I must’ve finally gotten my drivers license because I was there alone with my dad. He handed me a paper. “Can you type this for me? It’s a poem.”
I read my dad’s tight almost illegible scrawl. His hands were not responsive to his will any more because of the MS, but I was used to that and used to his distorted speech, so used to it that I don’t think I even noticed it. “Read it to me,” he said.
At sixteen I only fully understood some of what my dad had written. It takes maturity, heart-breaking disappointments and extinguished hopes to get all of it. But it was a poem about his marriage and his family. He evoked a few beautiful memories. He ended it with a call to action — to my mom! — that maybe they could resurrect their original love and continue onwards.
Well, they fought a lot and had for several years. My mom’s only outlet for her anger was the people in her family.
It was a very sad poem. That much I got at 16.
“Don’t let your mother see it,” he said. “I’ll give it to her when the time is right.”
I am not sure, but I don’t think my mom ever saw it.
Another poem by my dad had been hidden in this notebook for at least fifty — but possibly sixty — years. I found it a few years ago when I had the idea that I would throw out all my journals and attendant embarrassing and bad writing. I thumbed through the back pages of the notebook, empty sheets I had never examined, and there I found a poem in my dad’s writing, a song. As a poem it’s pretty bad, but it was a very sweet discovery.
My dad really wanted to be a poet. His hero was Omar Khayyam who was both a mathematician and a poet. My dad had the mathematics part going, but the poetry part? I’m not sure quality counts as much as the writing. There is a flip-cartoon my brother must have drawn when he was 10 and some other random bits of a long-ago life. It’s a pretty cool artifact.