Poem: Trunks and Time and the History of the Future

Trunks and Time and the History of the the Future

The sampler lies on the music stand about the piano.
Well-worn threads, a phrase slowly growing lost
in a world of dying churches and spirituality
without form. Without history or roots.

I am reminded of my grandmother,
teacher of the bible until her last days, teaching
the old ladies in the church,
each one far older than she.
In her last years, after my grandfather died,
she became something unexpected, a friend
with letters written back and forth,
hers in her perfect 19th-century script,
mine in a scrawl looking more like drunk chickens
scratching than real words. I have her letters still
in a trunk at the end of my bed.

The trunk belonged to my grandfather.
It is where he would put small momentos,
notes and letters, and cards that had meaning.
Rumor was it had love letters near the bottom.
It was a sacred place in the small attic room
behind the upstairs bedroom.
When he passed, we opened the trunk
in anticipation, wondering what we might find,
what new insight we would discover.
It was empty.

Now it sits at the end of my bed.
I use it as my grandfather did. It is nearly full
and I wonder if it will last until my own death.
Love letters from the past, a few purged
in a fit of sad anger, most intact,
a few photographs. Cards from those
I managed to touch, so many of them from churches
that have come and gone with move after move,
a history in words of what others thought of me,
and of my own growth, where God somehow changed
from a stale old man with a stern countenance
to a loving father, steadfast and with a sense of humor,
giver of music, art, and sunsets, living
not in this old trunk, but in your grey head
and your beating heart, the older you get
the more capable of love, defying time,
reversing age, or at the very least,
ignoring it.

About this poem

I once had someone tell me, and it was not meant as a compliment, that I had no sense of time. In a way, there is some truth to that. I don’t think about time that often, and yet at the same time, I think of progress and journeys and what is next. I suspect I will think that way until there is no earthly next left.

The trunk story is true. So is the story of my grandmother. But in real life, they were on different sides of the family, Grandmother Lassiter being my mom’s mom, and Grandaddy Atkins being my dad’s dad. Both were precious to me and I had the pleasure of knowing them both well into my adult life.

Tom

2 comments

  1. I listen to probably-wise advice to destroy my journals and such (more than would fit in a trunk) before I die – as kindness to those who might read them out-of-context to much of what triggered the entries. I ponder a ceremonial burning of all those pages. Tossing in the recycle bin too callous. Meanwhile, I keep writing …

    Your post stirs personal questions … thanks for the nudge.

    • If I make someone think, or feel, or both, then I have succeeded! Thank you for letting me know when I do! I ponder a burning of journals as well. But as I have been doing mind on the computer for over a decade, the worst of the madness will be lost when I go. And likely, a good thing!

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