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

this is me

I will never believe
that this inglorious me
as you have labelled
is the only me to be,

but choose to seek instead—
however disastrously
however comically—
to define myself!

to create my me
in such colors and tones
as I would most wish
to be seen by you—

speaking hugely in words
and accents as I would
most insistently, most proudly
choose to be heard,

for this is me

this is me

[Inspired by Lia’s https://liathepoet.home.blog/2021/02/03/c-am-em-g/ ]

I cannot listen to this sing without crying. My thoughts dwelling on my mother and father, and our homelands in Scotland and Germany, and all of the family and ancestors there whom I will never know beyond the reading and imagining. So … here is Scotland’s own Kris Drever and Lau, singing “Ghosts”.

voices

I recall the many voices
that sounded my childhood days
some in such lyrical fashion,
others with weightier authority—
those of my father, my mother,
brother, friends, even strangers—
and I would repeat them all
mimicking accents when alone
and safely unheard by others,
unheard and less likely to be mocked,
challenging notions of speech
and strictly defined identity,
never feeling quite comfortable
with being a singular voice.

Even now, I explore voices
while sharing them professionally
with others for pleasure.
Yet the one voice that must always
define me in accordance with
my own wishes is that of
my mother’s homeland,
land of the Stewarts and Bruces,
the Blairs, McConnells, Kennedys,
MacDonalds, Oliphants, Campbells,
McCandlesses, McWhirters, Hepburns,
and so many more clans besides
whose bloodlines still flow
in these aging veins of mine,
finding expression in the plethora
of pleading, playful voices
my heart endearingly speaks.

You are my past
and my future,
and to you all I say
tapadh leibh,
mo theaghlach.

this moment

These bones sag,
the craggy skin that loosely shrouds them
blistering with age
like pages of countless neglected tomes

I remember well
how my feet flew across the playground,
how these hands unlined
grasped eagerly at play and joyful mirth

I watch them play now
and lay my fear to rest for a time at least,
the beast of my pains
falling silent as songs fill my heart

Time is jealous—
time is a base and wrathful whore monger,
a money lender
preying upon the naive and hopeful

But for this moment,
for this graceful gracious laughing moment,
time means nothing
and love is everything that has ever been

Or ever will be

For Dora Mae Ellington

Fifty-six years ago you gave birth to me.

So much of my past has fallen silent.
Pale images float unheeded through my memories,
faces places amassing anonymously,
from one moment to the next, indistinguishable
leaving me—what?—less than I am perhaps.

But I remember your smile, so full,
your heart so rich and reaching out,
ever offering warmth and comfort
to friends and family and indeed
to anyone you might chance upon.

For that was precisely who you were—
a woman of such love and kindness,
always mindful of the needs of others,
always seeking to help and hold
and bring peace to those around you.

Did you know, father still reaches for you,
touches your photo every night before bed,
his heart ever dwelling with you.
We all miss you. How could we not?
You, who meant so much to us all.

I do not care for birthdays anymore,
at least, not my own, not really.
But if this day matters at all,
as it does to my beautiful wife, my children,
it matters because of you, Mother.

Thank you for all you did for me,
for all of us.

We will never forget you.

after goodbye

i did believe once that when my daughter left
closing the door swiftly behind her
smiling sweetly into her future
smiling beyond me with the naïve
and native brilliance of unspoiled youth
that i, quite simply, ceased to exist

i would drive away listening to whispers
chastising my heart, stupidly sniffling
gripping the wheel, glancing left and right
and remembering to sternly extinguish
such foolish hope before it could do
any more damage to my tattered soul

so convinced was i of my meaninglessness
that i courted sorrow like a committed lover
braving rejection even for the thrice cherished
chance to demonstrate how empty life
had suddenly become, so convinced in fact
that i neglected to see how full my life could be

time sits with me now in eager remonstrance
that i never forget how i too am loved
how the sun rises brisk and boldly beaming
over a world made more fertile and true
by, my darling, you—in whose heart am i
more than just a shadow of my former self

i see the two of you sitting closely together
in the light of day embracing warmth and
laughter with a voracious and enviable appetite
i see my little one follow your words
your very movements, comforted by your smile
encouraged by your wit, and i am enthralled

by the loving heart of you
by the deepening hope of she
and by the knowledge
that we three together
will write this world anew

20150118_161900

 20141226_202124

home

he lifts the little one again
high as he possibly can
doesn’t even feel that
angry twinge in his shoulder,
hearing only the laughter
the brightest sound
he has ever known,
and she watches it all:
her father, her son
playing together again
home at long last
exactly where they belong
all of them, she thinks,
and her smile radiates
warmth across the room
and out the doors
and over the trees
to melt the coldest
the very coldest of hearts

Salt Lake City 26 Sep 2012

for the old world

My thoughts return again and again to the old world, to the lands across the sea that my ancestors abandoned long ago. Well, not so long ago in fact, when my father left Germany to immigrate here to the U.S. As for my mother, God rest her blessed soul, she never knew the half of her own heritage. The Scottish, yes. But little did she know how many of her roots were settled in those ancient lands. And in England and Ireland and Germany and France.

I wish sometimes I could share with her all that I have learned. I wish I could take her hand and show her how large her world had been, this woman who dwelt so comfortably between four walls, so long as she could provide for her two sons. So long as she could make a safe and happy home in that small space. Little knowing how eagerly one of her own bairn would seek out the past she had lost.

She is only eight years old now, but when my dearest daughter arises to claim her life in her own voice, with her own hands, I pray she will abandon these walls and seek the world wide to find the life that suits her best. If it means leaving all this behind, my darling princess, then so be it. Create the life you will, and I will always be proud of you for it. For having found your own voice.

As for me, what time remains in this body still, what rhythm yet this heart may beat, what verses this mind may yet compose, I know it will not be here. My father left his home in the old world and hardly looked back to the heritage he had left behind. My mother barely knew hers. I will not die on these shores. I will afar. As far as this life may yet take me. And in the old world, in the company of true love, I pray I will at last find peace.

This, by the way, is the remarkable Julie Fowlis, and these are the words to this song, which I have copied from her website:

Bothan Àirigh am Bràigh Raithneach (A sheiling on the Braes of Rannoch)


Gur e m’ anam is m’ eudail
chaidh an-dè do Ghleann Garadh:
fear na gruaig’ mar an t-òr
is na pòig air bhlas meala.

O hi ò o hu ò, o hi ò o hu ò,
Hi rì ri ò hu eile
O hì ri ri ri ò gheallaibh ò

Is tu as fheàrr don tig deise
de na sheasadh air thalamh;
is tu as fheàrr don tig culaidh
de na chunna mi dh’ fhearaibh.
Is tu as fheàrr don tig osan
is bròg shocrach nam barrall:
còta Lunnainneach dubh-ghorm,
is bidh na crùintean ga cheannach.

An uair a ruigeadh tu ‘n fhèill
is e mo ghèar-sa a thig dhachaigh;
mo chriosan is mo chìre
is mo stìomag chaol cheangail.

Thig mo chrios à Dùn Eideann
is mo bhrèid à Dùn Chailleann,
gheibh sinn crodh as a’ Mhaorainn
agus caoraich à Gallaibh.

Is ann a bhios sinn ‘gan àrach
air àirigh am Bràigh Raithneach.
ann am bòthan an t-sùgraidh
is gur e bu dùnadh dha barrach.

Bhiodh a’ chuthag ‘s an smùdan
a’ gabhail ciùil duinn air chrannaibh;
bhiodh an damh donn ‘s a bhùireadh
gar dùsgadh sa mhadainn.

It was my love and my treasure
who went yesterday to Glengarry,
the man with hair like gold
and kisses that taste of honey.

You suit your clothes
better than any man on earth;
you look better in your garments
than any man I’ve ever seen.

You look better in stockings
and comfortable laced shoes,
a dark blue London coat
that cost many crowns to buy.

When you arrive at the fair,
you’ll bring home my gear,
my small belt and my comb
and my little narrow fastening
head-band.

My belt will come from Edinburgh
and my marriage head-dress from
Dunkeld,
we’ll get cattle from the Mearns
and sheep from Caithness.

And we’ll rear them in a sheiling
in Bràigh Raithneach,
in the brush-wood enclosed hut of
dalliance.

The cuckoo will sing
its song to us from the trees,
the brown stag and its roaring
will wake us in the morning.

http://www.juliefowlis.com/songs/