Monday, April 11, 2011

Why I'm Here-With Apologies to Jacqueline Berger

I read Ms. Berger's poem Why I'm Here here and was struck by it.  A long time ago a meme went around with a different poem related to family history and I did two versions of that here and here.  Today, for another National Poetry Month entry, I give my take on Why I'm Here.

Because my mother was comfortable with his family
in a way she wasn't at home.
And because, years earlier,
my father's much older brother married
mom's youngest aunt.
In the blended family gatherings
they found themselves
thrust together,
two quiet people overshadowed
by the ones larger than life.
I'm here because my mother couldn't conceive.
She'd read parenting books since she was a dreamy teenager,
rather than those silly fan magazines
And because my father was willing to adopt,
said he wanted to be a good dad.
I'm here because some social worker decided
this couple would be fit parents in their
little third floor apartment
overlooking a cemetery.

I'm here because a college student
lost her boyfriend,
took comfort in the arms of a married man who
pretended to not recognize her when
her belly swelled with me.
Because there was a lawyer
in her Quaker meeting house
who had a colleague whose brother's wife
couldn't conceive.

The rest of the reasons are long gone.

One decides to dress, and go on
with the shopping, and cooking, and cleaning.
One decides to go to work at the lab,
juggle test tubes and powders
to press into cakes so someone else can sell them.
One decides to dance away her sadness
so her dance floor gyrations
pulse along the floor,
shimmy up the pants leg,
and tickle the fancy of a man
bored with
his wife and kids.
And he decides to alleviate his boredom with a shapely redhead.

I'm here because German Protestants
were persecuted and left home
for a place where a Quaker founder
sympathized and promised refuge.
Because some Greek family decided
they were better off in America
than among whatever ruins they left.

It's good to treasure the gift, but good
to see that it wasn't really meant for you.
The feeling that it couldn't have been otherwise
is just a feeling. My family
gathers around long tables at Thanksgiving,
Christmas, Easter.
I've taken over making the baked pineapple
and chocolate nut cookies my grandmothers used to make.
I wish I could ask them how much butter,
how hot the oven
though I know how much, how hot.

We've been sitting at these same tables for years
so I believe we will go on forever.
It's right to give thanks for the random,
the unlikely probability that each of us should be here,
if not the meaning, the feeling, the changing air
and light
as seasons pass,
that Spring, when it comes,
arrives gently.

I invite you to tell me either in comments or your own post, why are you here?


secret agent woman said...

Quaker roots! I like that.

I may do this one as a post - too long for a comment!

snowelf said...

Absolutely beautiful.

its gotta be a post for me sometime this week too.


clean and crazy said...

that is amazing, is there a word count? i will give it a try. i think it fits my mood, this question

clean and crazy said...

ok i got one up, it's not very good.

Craig said...

Rich; very rich, dear friend. . .

I couldn't put it as poetically as you, but aspects of my story are similar to yours. . .

The college girl, prettier than she knows, bowled over by the attention of a rakish Korean War vet. . . The Michigan farm boy, bringing home his German war bride, childless after nine years of marriage. . . Nine more years, after which she decided she'd had enough. . . A new wife, with three more kids, and making two more together; yours-mine-and-ours. . .

I still need to do more research into the Palatine Germans who left for America in the 1730s, and the troubles that led them to do so (which accounts in large part for both my adoptive father and my birth-mother). . . As well as the hardscrabble Englishmen who populated New England in the mid-1600s, and in the fullness of time, migrated inexorably westward. . .

I have at least one ancestor who may have been a Civil War draft-dodger, and another who left England (just around the corner from Stratford-on-Avon) for Canada with a wife 15 years his senior. . . And another who was a Congregationalist clergyman. . .

So. . . very basic, very human stuff. . .

That whole question of 'How I Got Here' is just endlessly fascinating. . .

Logophile said...

So much love in that story...

I may have to do this too.

Anonymous said...

in a wild night of pure abandonment my parents broke out the turkey baster

Cricket said...

Well, I'm here to read a funny, or poetic, or thought provoking post.

I love your conclusion in particular. I'd copy and paste but I'm not sure how to do that on this little "crap-top" I'm using at the moment.

As to your larger question, I'll have to think about that. When I was little, my grandfather gave me an illuminated quotation from the Catechism to keep on my night-table. It was the first thing I saw in the morning, the last thing I saw at night. I still have it:

God made me to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him forever in the next.

So there's that, of course, though that isn't specific to me. Maybe I'll let this one rattle around in my thinkertoy for a while...

Suldog said...

As Cricket said, but in different words, I'm here because I love you. Of course, you wanted something about my being here in a more general sense, in the world itself.

I'm here because two people loved each other, if only for a relatively short number of years. My coming probably resulted in their being together years longer than they otherwise might have been. Through whatever they were feeling about each other, neither one ever showed me anything less than love. They sacrificed their own comfort for mine, many times over, and put off what was probably inevitable until I was old enough to understand. I am here because of love; first theirs for each other, then theirs for me.

S said...

when do we get the hard bound version of house of Lime?

G-Man said...

Yess'm... You be one MIGHTY Fine writer when you've a mind to..G

Mona said...

That is a beautifully written poem. So much feeling here, and also a gentle pathos. but no regrets! I love this!

Jinksy said...

Guess I got here by the grace of God - or the Universe - is there a difference? :)