Friday, March 17, 2017

I Wish I'd Written This

Commandment V

Honor your father and your mother.

Thy mother does not remember her son, 
whether her daughters hair
 
was flaxen or mouse brown,
 
what she ate for her last meal.
 
She does remember her first gelding,
 
what his hands felt like
 

when he rubbed her neck,
the song her mother sang
 
as they snapped beans on the porch.


Thy father remembers the scent of her breast, 
the feel of her thighs locked in his,
 
a trout he caught when he was seven.
 
He does not remember her name,
 
when or how his father died,
 
his son’s job,
 
his daughter’s children.


They live apart together – 
he in an apartment in the west wing,
 
she in nursing care in the south.
 
They see each other at Sunday service.
 
They do not remember each other,
 
but fall in love with a smile
 
freely offered by a long-lost lover.


Their children’s visits fade 
like a kiss stolen backstage
 
at a third grade spelling bee.

– Gary Blankenship



I made Gary Blankenship's acquaintance online through various poetry groups, and have come to know his poetry as beautiful, moving, and unobtrusively well-crafted.

I didn't know much else about him until I asked; then he gave me this information:

"Gary Blankenship is a sometimes poet and editor.  He has written or edited five books.   He is currently editing an erotic anthology, Books of Passion and Desire - 10 poets explore - due out in early 2017 from Amazon, but late.  His latest is A Single Drop of Blood, poems about West Nile Virus and other illnesses,  Published in 2015, available from Amazon. In 2014, he edited Demlips: Haiku by Traci Siler.  He lives on the Western side of Puget Sound in Bremerton WA, center of the Big Wet and travels to Oregon for high school football, rugby and tuba concerts."

I think it's safe to say from the photo that he is also a family man – shown here with grandson Ben, whom more recent photos in the proud grandfather's facebook collection show as being in his teens now.

I first approached him in December with the request to feature this poem. Since then Books of Passion and Desire has been published and is available from Amazon: here. It was slightly delayed – by Gary's brain surgery!  Judging by his poetry and other posts on facebook, there is nothing wrong with his brain now.

I chose this poem, which deals so tenderly with brain illness in others, because I have some experience of loving people with Alzheimer's. I admire the way Gary has found the more positive and even beautiful aspects of that condition, and made us see them too. Not that he refuses to confront the tragedy of it; but he does so in a gentle, under-stated way, and shows us how the tragedy and beauty are all mixed in together in this illness. It is the adult children in the poem who are most acutely grieved; the elderly protagonists have some happy moments in the old memories and present pleasures.

It is one of a series of poems on the Commandments.

Here is the complete list of his previous publications, and where to obtain those still available:

Autumn Reflections:  Santiam Publishing 2000 (out of print, contact the publisher)

Garbage Collection - Poetry by Suzanne G. Griffiths Victoria Oak, Gary Blankenship and guests:  Santiam River Publishing 2002 (out of print, contact the publisher)

A River Transformed - Wang Wei's River Wang Poems as Inspiration:  Santiam Publishing 2005  Obtain from www.lulu.com

The Poetic States and a drop of sunshine:  2014  Writers and Lovers Studio  www.writers-and-lovers.com  editor@ writers-and-lovers.com)

A Single Drop of Blood - Poems about West Virus Nile and other illnesses:  Santiam River Publishing 2015  Obtain from Amazon

*

Demlips - Haiku by Traci Siler (Editor):  2014  Writers and Lovers Studio  www.writers-and-lovers.com  editor@ writers-and-lovers.com)

Also he sometimes shares poems on his facebook page, and in haiku and tanka groups.


Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors. 

14 comments:

  1. the care, concern and the gentleness the poem weaves is so touching...'They do not remember each other,
    but fall in love with a smile
    freely offered by a long-lost lover.' love this...Thanks for the share Rosemary...

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  2. Very tender, brought tears to my eyes as this is indeed how we--their children--see them changing and lose them again and again. We must move past that grief to give the smile of love and friendship and intimacy. It's so much easier when we are visitors and not caretakers--though the latter role can be a blessing as well. And yes, this one piece makes me so interested in this poet.

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  3. Thank you for the introduction to this poet, Rosemary. I adore the poem, the flashes of memory it is so wonderful his protagonists still have and I, like Sumana, especially loved the falling in love smiles they exchanged towards the end of the poem. This poet really understands his elderly subjects and the situation, and brings us right into the centre of it so we understand it too. Such tenderness in his pen! I am impressed with the body of work he has produced and the fact that brain surgery barely slowed him down. This is a wonderful share. Thank you so much.

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  4. Oh, Rosemary, what a touching and striking poem this is. I do think it characterizes the sadness of Alzheimers so very well. And I keep thinking to myself.....at the end all life is reduced to this...two people who once loved one another, raised children together, just sitting in the same room enjoying one another's smiles!

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  5. Very sad and tender. It's a terrible problem for the old, as if it isn't enough aging then one has to lose all the wonderful memories that made them who they are. Nice write, Rosemary! Glad I had time to read it.

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  6. Having endured the long goodbye of Alzheimer's in my mother, this poem touched my heart in many ways. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for introducing us to Gary. I am looking forward to exploring more of his work.

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  7. I wish I'd written this too. Both mother and mother-in-law had Alzheimer's and dementia. Gary's poem brings to my mind, much of the sorrow but also the beauty brought out these impairments. I'm grateful for this post Rosemary. Thank you.

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  8. I wrote a than you. It is lost. Everyone and especially Rosemary many thanks. Love. Gary

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    Replies
    1. It is we who thank you, Gary, for giving us such a beautiful emotional experience – and for commenting again after the first try got lost.

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  9. A lovely share - beautifully sketched: such fragile - human - strokes of the pen with such a heavy life circumstance. A very impactful piece.

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  10. Absolutely tenderly exquisite - bringing sweet tears. Thank you to both Rosemary and Gary for this beautiful gift.

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  11. Absolutely tenderly exquisite - bringing sweet tears. Thank you to both Rosemary and Gary for this beautiful gift.

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