affirmation

I watch with ever wonder
as they wisp-like dart
around the room dancingly
prancing effortless steps
with such limitless youth
and envied abandon.

He is a tornado or
so it had been said,
yet in my eyes he is a
prince most potent,
commanding my heart
with each word he speaks.

And she, much more
than regal a princess
lithely evoking my calm
wonder with witty words
as the knowing world bends
around her determination.

My beautiful children
compose time itself
with each giggling leap
as they cavorting the room
expand, and define the day
to suit their brightening play.

Yet always and ever
they return to she who
bore them, who wore
their needs wantingly
inspired to nurture more
than a family hers.

I listen to their play
and I look at exquisite her
as my heart fills with
such longing, for in her
is life most carefully
most joyfully affirmed.

İstanbul 1 December 2021

little fingers

little fingers
painting pouting petals
tickling timid toes

little hands
dripping ice cream
digging in the dirt

little mouths
whispering wonders
singing so sweetly

little eyes
reflecting such beauty
tendering honest tears

little hearts
offering the biggest
boldest love of all

God, how I miss you,
my little dears

My wee Cooper, Asena, and Leona Ellington

for my father

Helmut Georg Waltrapp with his cousin in Germany (1942)

He was born Helmut Georg Waltrapp in Germany in 1939 as the world around him was burning, and several years later, his mother grabbed him and rushed him off to the forests around Bamberg to hide from the coming Americans. The rumors were such, they knew they could expect no mercy. Yet it was a wonderful American military family—the Ellingtons—who would befriend my father, and eventually bring him to the US as their adopted son, George Ellington—the name he would later bestow upon me.

With his beloved wife, my dear mother, Dora (2007)

In America, my father moved to California when his father was stationed at Fort Ord near Monterey. And when the Ellingtons moved back to Virginia, Papa stayed in Salinas, where he had met my mother, Dora. He adored her. He still does, years after her passing. He still blows a kiss to a picture of my mother every night before going to bed. Together they created such a joyful, nurturing home, and made sure I believed in myself. Their love and their faith in me enabled me to grow up excited for life and love, to be the first to attend college, to become a teacher, and to travel back to Germany and to Scotland, from which the two sides of my family derived.

Papa and I in Utah (2001)

Throughout my life I have known him to be nothing but strong and clever and caring and infinitely kind. A manual laborer all his life, he proved himself to be the smartest man I have ever known, always eager to learn new things and to share his happiness and laughter with others. If I have any skill at all in parenting—I would even argue that if I have managed to achieve anything of value at all with my own life—it is because he was my role model. And he still is. Happy Father’s Day, Helmut Georg Waltrapp. Happy Father’s Day, George Elwood Ellington. You are my hero. This is a wee verse I wrote for my father some years ago.

Father and son together again at my wedding (2015)

never have i known
a man who so deftly
blends the honest love
of his noble heart
with the potent vigor
of his indomitable frame

a man who composes
with sweetest care
tales of vibrant life
and fantastical creatures
striving to tend those
trembling in need

i have passed a lifetime
struggling to elevate
myself beyond my dull
and common being
so that i might find
peace in who i am

yet my greatest feats
pale in comparison
to the life he has given
for those he loves
and for his ever eager
and child-like voice

my highest honor—
my dear and beloved
father, George—
lies in the fact that
i am and will always be
your adoring son

Easter

the giggles that tickle
the snickers that ickle
complicitly picking apart
my complacent hush

the sweets that abound
tiny feet that surround me
bravely rushing o’er
flowers and brush

much more to be found
through the door they do bound
there must be some
hidden inside as well

there’s never enough
of this chocolatey stuff
for my feral weans
racing pell mell

168 Cafes

A wee chat with my son, Cooper, this morning:

George: Can’t wait to travel again. See another country.

Cooper: My friend has been to a lot of countries.

G: Really? Well, you have been to two countries.

C: Scotland?

G: No, you haven’t been to Scotland yet, but you’ve been here and…?

C: England?

No, you’ve been here in America and in Mexico.

Well, my friend has been in five countries.

Five? Wow, where has he been?

He’s been in Scotland and America and England and here and America.

I see, quite a traveler.

Yeah, and … and he is from a different planet.

A different planet?!

Yes. Far far away.

How far?

So far! It takes 168 cafes to get there.

That’s a lot of cafes.

Yeah.

Do you have to eat the whole way?

Yeah. But it’s so good!

  • Cooper, lying on a dresser, as he tells his stories.

the day she died

Before I entered her room,
I had been kindly warned
to prepare for the worst.
I wasn’t sure what that meant
or how to heed such words,
so I stumbled to my father first
and took him in my arms.

In the event, it didn’t matter—
my mother’s eyes were closed
with so much medication
coursing through her veins
to dull the enveloping pains
that sleep was the only thing
her failing body could manage.

Once or twice that long day
her heavy lids slowly rose
yet quickly lowered again
her mind cognizant of nothing
her once eager voice silenced
her pale flesh sinking steadily
into the coldly wrinkled sheets.

For hours we spoke beside her
as if somehow she could hear,
and I prayed in my heart that
she might speak to me once more,
but all I heard as darkness fell
was her harshly rasping breath
and the lengthening pauses between.

Although I had indeed been warned
to prepare for the worst that day,
I know now with painful certainty
that the worst was not that moment
seeing her cancered body dying there,
but rather thinking of all the days,
the years that had quietly passed

while we had been apart.

My mum, Dora Mae Stewart, with my father George near Monterey, California (May 2006)

party fowl

I was feeling comfortable at last
after a long and emotional day
with my arm still sore from the jab
and my heart aching for my lad.

But now was time for my wife and I
to sit together and enjoy a cocktail
or two while sharing thoughts
and laughter and insights.

When suddenly, I fell too heavily
on the sofa and upset the plate
of jalapeno poppers and a sweet
dipping sauce of onions and pepper.

Shyly I cringed at my mishap
only grateful that the sauce was intact
and the snack still quite edible
as I quickly settled my arse back down.

And then she snickered and said,
“Party foul,” and me being
a generation ahead of her and
painfully out of touch, I grimaced.

“Don’t tell me you don’t know
what party foul means,” she said,
as images of a much besotted Duck
jauntily danced a reel in my head.

“Of course I … do,” I insisted
sheepishly, and she kindly explained,
but still, I like the image of minced Duck,
the reekin’, howlin’ fowl, far better

even if poor Sarah might look askance.

In case you were wondering about the reference there, this is Sarah and Duck. [Image by Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48753024%5D

It’s going to be magic

I must have been falling asleep
right there in the chair
as my weans continued to play
as passionately as they do
at that so delightful age.

“You know,” my 4-year-old son
said in response to something
from my wee girl that I hadn’t heard.
“It’s just that Daddy’s a bit old
and broken. Like his car.”

My boy fiddled and fudged
with a piece of paper
creating God only knows what,
so of course I had to ask,
“What are you doing there, lad?”

He stopped what he was doing
just for a moment, it seemed,
just long enough to glance
reassuringly at me in the mirror
with that oh so charming smile of his.

“Don’t worry,” he said,
“it’s going to be magic.”

Cooper, my wee clever man

yalanlar (“lies”)

bıraktım nihayet bu işi
uzaktan geldim sana

sonu görünmeyen yolda
kaybolmuş bir adam gibi

vardım, boşlukla dolu
ellerimi uzattım sana

yattın birden bu hasis acınla
hakkımı helal etmeden

kuru sesimle bağırdım
bu ağır sükûtunda sana

evde olsa, sokakta da
vadii hamuşanda dururken

kara kapanmış gözlerimle
bir daha bakıyordum sana

beyaz kefene sarılmış biri var
toprak tarafından kucaklanmış

ama sen değildin
yoksa?

dünyanın ucu uzundur
öyle demedin mi bana?

neden yalan söyledin?
neden?



Lies

I have at last abandoned this affair
and come to you from afar,

like a man who has lost his way
on a path that never seems to end.

I arrived and extended to you
my hands full of emptiness.

With this vile pain, you suddenly reclined
without asking for my blessing.

In a dry voice I shouted
at you in the heavy stillness.

Whether at home or in the streets
stopping in the valley of the silent ones,

with my eyes shrouded
I looked once more at you.

There was one wrapped in a winding sheet
embraced by the earth,

but it was not you…
or was it?

Hadn’t you told me that
the end of the world is long?

Why did you lie to me?
Why?

fatherhood

Ghostly glimmerings
halo this highest moment.

While I cradle him eagerly,
smiling with absolute certainty,

a future portentous persists
in torturous anonymity.

And perhaps that is why
I cling to him more than he me,

fearful of the inevitable time
to come when wisely he

anchored in a now unknown
describes a photo to his love,

“Oh, that was my father.”
And her heart will smile on him.

“What was he like?” she will ask.
He’ll pause and grimace.

Not that it’s his fault, really,
just that ghosts are so much harder to know.

When my sweet boy Cooper was born. (Aug 2016)