Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
October in Minneapolis is a sacred month. It has the last warm days of the season mixed with a visual feast of greens, yellows, orange and reds beneath a blue harvest sky. Minnesotans know what’s coming next; cold weather, snow, icy sidewalks, short foggy grey overcast days and leafless trees. Please, don’t ruin our enjoyment of being sozzled by beauty for a couple of weeks by reminding us of our winter hangover that is yet to come. Nature throws a hell of party at summer’s closing time in Minneapolis, with a last round of a Kaleidoscope of colors for our bacchanalian fall over indulgence.
October is sacred for another reason for me personally. It is the month of my mother’s birth and the one year anniversary of her ashes being interred at Lakewood Cemetery, next to her parents and grandmother.
The only reason I am a poet and writing this blog is because of my mother. Poetry was and is a visceral connection to her. She and I shared a love of poetry going back to my childhood but it intensified as time went on. My mother returned to Minnesota for the last four years of her life, after 28 years of living in other parts of the world, always pronouncing steadfastly during short visits, that she would never return to live here again. That she relented on that declaration was a gift beyond measure. Her return to Minneapolis, coming full circle back to the neighborhood where she grew up and first taught grade school after graduating from the University of Minnesota, allowed me and my sister to spend time with her on a weekly basis, as she lived less than two miles away from each of us in those remaining years.
Soon after she returned, my mother and I created a tradition called poetry night. It started out informally but grew to have regular rules. We each would pick out 5 or 6 poems to read aloud to each other and eat a meal together once every 3 or 4 months. The rule was you had to read each poem twice (her rule, in part because of her struggles with hearing aids, but also so that you can listen carefully and internalize more of the poem the second time through). We would take turns, alternating, reading each poem we had selected one at a time, then asking each other questions, laughing, telling stories, talking about the author and why we chose each poem, before moving on to the next. We were planning another poetry night shortly before she died. It was a lovely way to spend 3 hours in her presence. Here is a poem I had set aside to read to her on our next poetry night.
Love is a Place
e. e. cummings
love is a place
& through this place of
(with brightness of peace)
yes is a world
& in this world of
(skillfully curled) all worlds
My mother was a good poet and had great taste in poetry. She liked serious poetry, but also appreciated silly rhymes, and was a masterful limerick writer. She often wrote us a poem for our birthdays, an affirmation of her love. In a future blog post I will share more of her poetry. Here is a poem my mother wrote in August of 2014 following heavy June rains that caused minor flooding on Lake of Isles, which is only a couple of blocks from where she lived. It illustrates her powers of observation, wisdom and sense of humor.
In the middle of the summer downpour
The lake rose up out of its bed,
Ambled across the beach,
Crept over the grassy verge,
And settled on the walking path.
Little fish followed;
Swimming along, their shadows gliding beneath them,
On the path that said ….’No Bikes’.
My mother lived and lives in a yes world, and wished for all of her family and friends to live a loving life with brightness of peace. She allowed each of us to swim our own paths, even in high water.
It is a daunting thing to try and write something in honor of your mother. Words never measure up. I wrote the following poem as part of my grief process. It began as a sonnet, but it morphed a little to become something sonnet-light. The day of her internment was overcast, grey and slightly rainy.
Happy Birthday Mom.
My True Verse
T. A. Fry
Laid bare before life’s mighty eyes,
Farewell beloved I leave behind.
Look past the rain, the grey torn sky.
And if you weep this day, then go resigned.
Keep no somber vigil by silent ash.
As my spirit lives with those I loved.
For I lay beyond mere earthen cache,
My love of you forever proved.
So when in need of kindly word,
Amid drag and drone of a rambling curse.
Listen for my voice in brook or bird.
And hear the truest of my true verse.
Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost from The Poetry of Robert Frost edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright © 1923, 1947, 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, copyright © 1942, 1951 by Robert Frost, copyright © 1970, 1975 by Lesley Frost Ballantine.
“love is a place” by E.E. Cummings from Complete Poems 1904-1962, edited by George James Firmage. Copyright © 1935, 1963, 1991 by the Trustees for the E.E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1978 by George James Firmage.
©2017 Original material and images copyright T. A. Fry. Other material courtesy Creative Commons. Please inform post author of any violation.