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Barbara Grace Lake

Poetry & Other Crimes

GRANDPA

© 2015 Barbara Grace lake

 

I don’t remember hair. Oh, no,
I don’t remember hair at all
Although there must have been a time
When grandpa had some long ago.

I saw a picture once. Gram said
That it was grandpa. When it was
I never knew, but, damn, it showed
A lot of hair on grandpa’s head.

A thick and wavy lion’s mane,
And coppery, like dogwood leaves
Start turning as first frost sets in
Before we lose them in the rain.

I didn’t like that picture much
Grandpa looked so stiff and mean
As if a smile or anything
Might crack his face with just a touch

And there were times when gramps was stern
About my schoolwork, chores and such
And if I caused my mother grief,
Then, still, he always said I’d learn.

I don’t remember hugs and stuff
My gramps was not that kind of man
He’d ever gently teach me things
Then cover up by acting gruff.

He taught me how a piece of wood
Could be ‘most anything I’d want
If I’d be patient, carve and sand
And finish building as I should

He taught me how someone who cares
No matter what their size might be
Would see their home was clean and snug
A proper shelter from life’s cares.

He taught me every day I knew
Him how a man could show his love.
He’d let me fall–but never far,
He’d always be there while I grew.

My gramps. A lot of things are there
Reminding me I knew a man,
But only when he’d gotten old.
I don’t remember him with hair.

 

MY MOTHER’S HANDS

© 2018 Barbara Grace Lake

 

So downy soft with loving care
Returned a nestling to its tree
To see the worried mother bird
Fly home to nurture, help it grow

As gently lifting me
From cradle to her breast
To suckle till I fell asleep
And dream warm baby dreams

Accepting, loving, strong
How able as I grew
At shushing tears as anger burst
Or bandaging a knee

Black garden dirt they wore with pride
Ingrained in every crease
But rainbow blossoms graced our home
The gift her hands displayed

Long years they spent in usefulness
Till gnarled, blue veined in age
Still soft and loving, loved as her,
My Mother’s hands

CHRISTMAS COMES

© 2017 Barbara Grace Lake

 

I do not feel like Christmas now
Please let it all pass by
This year I will not decorate
Nor roast nor cookies bake

I’ll not hang tinsel, bulbs or lights
My creche stays on its shelf
No tree will grace my living room
To hide my gifts to friends

I’d call my elder uncles, aunts
It always cheered them so
A friendly voice on Christmas day
But, no. They’re gone. I’m left.

I’m old, so old, I can’t bring cheer.
And then a welcome call
Hi, Grandma love, don’t cook again
I’m doing turkey, ham

Give us a chance to cosset you
You always work so hard
For once, sit back, enjoy the day
One simple call of cheer

A tree, a small one’s going up
I’ll honor Christmas Day
No funky blues can hold it back
As always, Christmas comes

JOHNNY BOY

© 2017 Barbara Grace Lake

 

His older mates said Johnny Boy
Or John; for me, the name is gone.
It mattered then. It doesn’t now.
It is his life I can’t forget

They all were young, our John much more
Still beardless, clear unjaded eyes
A friend and I adopted him
At service club, we’d talk for hours

John dearly loved his mountain home
The mockingbirds that sang all night
And critters almost tame to hand
Delight as dawn stole through the trees

Not once did John complain of want
He’d food, he said, enough to eat
A coat to keep the winter off
And Pa’s old boots that almost fit

Why then did Johnny Boy enlist?
What prompted him to leave his home?
“In winter pa would hunt, I skinned
Ma tanned the hides and made us coats”

“Last winter for my pa was bad
When finally the doctor came
Pa had pneumonia, might not live
And sure enough the next day died”

John’s mother poorly, father gone
Of siblings eight, the eldest John
His Army pay would serve their need
They told recruiters John 18

The last time I saw Johnny Boy
His company’d locked down to go
He risked court martial to be out
That one last time to see us both

A scarf he purchased for my friend
A Ronson Princess lighter mine
“I’m just fifteen, how will I know
What I must do? I won’t come back.”

About three months, almost the day
Our mail from Johnny’s closest pal
Told of a brave young boy who died
In war he did not understand

The lighter’s in my treasure box
Although so long ago it stopped
That piece of John remains with me
But John Boy’s home, his mountain home.

 

 

CHALLENGE

© 2016 Barbara Grace Lake

 

Kind, lovely Frances
Urged a poet on to write.
Doubtful mind set free

As words encourage
Silent pen takes up the dare.
Dreaming knights wake up

Onward!  Ever on
Filling pages, or a verse.
Vivid minds create

Unused, living seeds
Might lay untouched infertile
Poet writes haiku

HOPE

© 2016 Barbara Grace Lake

 

When all hope dies
Can ever threads remain
Of former ties
To call it back again

Does hope join dreams
Mid broken solemn vows
As uttered means
Enthralling men to bow

But threads there be
So hope is still aware
Within a sea
Of monstrous self despair

We are alive
Our souls unfettered bare
And hope survives
If mantle we would wear

 

THANKSGIVING

© 2016 Barbara Grace Lake

 

Native tribes saw need
And helped newcomers planting
Corn, squash, beans they grew

Instead of hunger
Men had game and garden fruit
Food enough for all

They came together
Tribes and whites to share their feast
Gave thanks for friendship

One sings Great Spirit
Others bow to distant God
Prayers find both as One

I TREE

© 2015 Barbara Grace Lake

 

When Spring returns green

fingers stretch toward the sun

Roses bud in warmth

 

Under passing clouds

Small nestlings dance of hunger

Breezes sing in crown

 

Dressed in crimson gold

I take my leave from Summer

Snow geese pattern sky

 

I brave grim Winter’s

Icy kisses frozen touch

Red snow flowers bloom

 

TOO YOUNG

© 2016 Barbara Grace Lake

 

The minister told of his life
His barely eighteen years of life
The casket closed, his body ripped
A valiant soldier he, life shorn

Two years before and for three years
In Little League, my own son’s team
A flawless fielder, playing fair
He gave no quarter, asked for none

So when the summons came he went
To fight or perish far from home
To slay an enemy unknown
He served his country well, and died.

And now we put his casket down
Three shots, each echo in my head
Three shots, each crack the morning air
My choking, sobbing tears won’t stop

It’s not enough.  He gave his life
Three shots and taps and folded flag
In two more years he could be mine
My God, they’re young…too young to die.

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