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

all of the silences

she is a master at her craft
a builder of extraordinary skill
employing language deftly refined
and meticulously set, her words
one by anxious one rising
as another wall emerges
into the darkness of my days
prohibiting useless dalliance,
for all must have a purpose,
even this matter between us
that once glowed with passion,
this once glorious act of love
now extraneous to a fault

she has taught me much
as the months have passed
and I have struggled to find
reason in this structure she erects,
assuring myself that her silence
is warranted by my own
petulant brooding, her distance
the result of my loathsome features—
of course she does not touch me
for who would choose to fondle
this aging fetid flesh of mine—
how much easier to keep building
in simple untainted silence

I have learned my lessons well
I abide within these walls

I have become all of the silences
you have taught me to keep

[Thank you, dearest Allison, for your incredible talent at always discovering just the right words, which I then gleefully borrow from you.]

mo ghràidh

Life thins her
tearing across her skin,
shreds of being
trickling down down
like rivulets of blood
that never cease to flow.

Time wears her
bears down upon her,
bending her over,
molding, forcing her on
with merciless intent,
or without purpose at all.

Man abuses her
refuses her voice,
rejects the veracity
of her very being
while craven crawling
between her taut thighs.

And she?

She sings her!
She rises and rages and
whispers a wondrous vision
that none can deny,
so vibrant and whole
despite the scars.

Or perhaps
because of them.

when he speaks

when he speaks
there is silence
a stillness like nothing
he has known before,
and he wonders why?

he remembers
how she would listen
and respond, and his words
seemed ever to matter
to her when there was love

her eyes would sparkle
with affection for him
and he could almost
hear the passionate beat
of her most adoring heart

but when she lost
the man who meant
more to her than he did
it was as if his presence
were a noisome burden

he listened when she spoke
and offered his love
and tried to still
the anguish in her heart
so that she might heal

and there were times
yes, when he wished
that he had died instead,
for then she might already
have found her peace

rather that than to know
how little he mattered now
how foolish his words
how pointless his efforts
when silence were better

he speaks
and there is silence
expanding, filling his heart
whole and heavy until finally
he is the silence

which is when
he closes
his mouth
at last
and waits

the bravest of all

With the encouragement of some dear friends here on WP, here is me reading “the bravest of all,” a verse I composed inspired by my past and by dear Allison Marie Conway from her beautiful collection Luminae.

Too timid these steps
as I cross over
pushing gently
through unseeing crowds
showering nothing of
the silence I crave,
fearful of the throng.

They dance and sway,
and I, staring at the sand
glistening around my feet
plead not with her
but with my own heart
for a chance to live
this one moment whole.

I see her standing there,
her back bare
beneath the adoring moon,
pursued by many,
loved so richly,
but by none so passionately
as by trembling me.

Which is perhaps why I turn
and trace my steps
back into the town,
the sounds of the players
fading behind me,
loathing once more
this poorly forged heart.

Coward that I am,
my hands shaking
as I order another drink
knowing all too well that
the bravest of all
are the ones
who feel everything.

those people

you see, it’s this way:

all those so strange people
and all their equally strange beliefs
and odd traditions and clothes
and gods and sexual preferences

all their countries and cultures
and bizarrely performed rituals
and incomprehensible sayings
and very imperfect ideas

all of which frighten you
and leave you befuddled
and most agitated to imagine
that perhaps they might, oh,

just might move in next door
and tempt your children away
from the perfect truth
you most zealously embrace—

all those dangerous people
are just like each blade of grass
each gentle sunning dandelion
wishing for nothing more sinister

than that you do not step on them,
that you leave them in peace

The view in my garden today.

your heart

I have known death well enough,
known it as most have—
from a safe distance,
and yet have felt it intimately
and oh so painfully.

When my mother passed
I was lying exhausted
having rushed that awful
distance to see her
one last time.

I cringed at how incapable
it—I!—all seemed,
her lying there quite
probably not hearing
my quavering voice.

And when my mother-in-law died,
I was in a train casually
traveling back to her side
without even knowing that
it was too late.

Yet now there is this—you—
mo ghràidh, facing a loss
all your own and here
this distant I quite trembling
can only wish you well,

and hope beyond reason perhaps
that you may feeling sense
any regard, any warmth
this my aging heart
can most eagerly offer you,

to hold your so tender heart
as it breathes again.

the need

the moon beckons
my thoughts, my needs, my skin

it is at times like this
when whispers become growls
and howling flesh
claws at the sedate and senseless
concrete coffin
in which i all too often repose

now when I feel
oh most sincerely, most sensually
the man in me
the primal carnal beast in me
chained too long
restrained beyond my wits’ ends

and I cannot give
a monkey’s about what it means
to don this suit
and mew over mealy mouthful
droppings of decorum
that daily masquerade as civility

now is the time
when this pricking skin stretches taut
over pulsing veins
needing to touch, to taste every
sweet inch of you
thrusting to fill you within

for this, too, is me
this is the very needful man in me

spectres

Again they come before me
these constant spectres
eyeless, mouthless, faceless,
pacing across my ragged breath
as I watch the fading sun,
weary wanderer, sluggishly
dip at last beyond the hills,
no longer caring for the day.

Ravenous, these ghouls
sally fourth, palely pouring
across the brittle sky,
more voracious they
than I had ever seen them,
swiftly consuming the fractured sun
which bleeds yellows and reds
across the angry heavens.

I knew them, I am sure,
I must have, for why else
would they shadow my days
if not for the chance
to accept the offer of my self
to sustain their petty
vindictive needs, feeding
oh so grossly on the flesh

that once shrouded my heart.

[Once again I must thank Allison for her inspiration, having drawn from her “black” certain images and words that fed upon my thoughts. I highly recommend her collection of poems, Vein, which you can find here.]