i wish we could’ve helped him find//at least coordinates or–

there’s a black hole where his past should be
uneven hammered imprints on a slightly bent A4 sheet
of an old olympia typewriter that made my knuckles ache
when i learned typing first

he on the kitchen table,
papers strewn across the flower-printed cloth,
there were no photos of—

he with mom&dad?
siblings?
an ocean weekend
with a shovel/bucket in his hand?
non-existant.

mom peeled new potatoes,
let them glide into a water bowl
so they don’t get brown// roots, ocher earth & straws
of summer hay blown upon her hair
carefree// long forgotten

in the evenings he watched documentations on tv,
WWII, a 5th beer in hand, life blurring
uni//formed young men on the death row of a dance
no one can win,

he never told us anything

a slice of tree, uprooted from a land
that he tried hard to– &i cannot say for sure
–either remember or forget

it ate him//finally
bent deep over the keyboard,
typing//typing
from the scaffolds of a life
devoid tonality,

only the fingers move
still//
in a weird beat
.

Grace has us write ancestors at dVerse today… join us when the doors open at 3pm EST…

36 responses to “i wish we could’ve helped him find//at least coordinates or–

  1. Helping anyone find their bearings in life is such an impossible mission…no matter how important they are to us…each must chart their own course…poignant poem…Indeed!

  2. Yes, I can so understand this.. and the image of a typewriter .. imagine that one had those machines once. My mother looses her past at the moment, but when I sat down with her and a photoalbum she started to remember… Pictures would have been so efficient I think..

  3. … reminds me of my mumme … she never told us anything either, but when she was drunk, she would turn into a faszinating story teller through her paintings

  4. Such typewriters brought back memories! It was a routine of physical movements of little machines,,erasing a mistake,,having carbon for multiple copies. Quite trying times. Remembered all those good old days! Wonderful write Claudia!

    Hank

  5. he never told us anything…there is a felt detachment here a bit…the being uprooted and caught somewhere between remember and forget…it makes me sad….and when we begin losing like that it scares me a bit…

  6. Claudia, you have given us a bit of a glimpse of your father’s pain. The most poignant part for me is the not knowing if he was trying hard to remember or to forget. I am sure this was hard for you as a child, as a child would not understand. And some things a child would not think to ask a parent then…until much later…when it is too late.

  7. This is a very poignant poem, Claudia. Your father’s inability to share what heavily weighed on him shows that oftentimes silence is worse than words. Bottling up is what people did in those days, and I think it was even more true of men than women. But they, and the people around them, often paid a heavy price.

  8. Stirs up memories of my own father who grew up as a neglected middle child. He never had much to say. Our brief conversations usually ended with him saying…”I don’t know much of anything else.” Thanks C.

  9. Taciturn, inarticulate, strong & silent, insecure, pride–all culprits for some men. My family was the polar opposite; a long-running soap opera, verbosity, hugs, yelling, cursing, gathering in great groups for outings, so I have spent a lifetime dialing down my type-A fervor in order to remain married, & employed.

  10. I specially like this part:

    a slice of tree, uprooted from a land
    that he tried hard to– &i cannot say for sure
    –either remember or forget

    How sad on the ending, that it ate him finally ~ And I also recall my grandfather’s old typewriter when I was learning to type ~ Love your share Claudia ~

  11. I can understand his pain… not knowing your roots; I have that same black hole.
    the whole German side of my family has made it clear than want nothing to do us (the black side). And the little I do know are unspeakable things, even I wouldn’t want to write about… which is why I chose not to participate in this prompt… some things are better left unsaid.

  12. Oh yes, I felt a bit like this trying to unearth stories of my Dad’s past. He would never share, I learned more about him and his family after he passed, than I ever did in life. This really grabbed my attention – especially the closing, ‘it ate him finally’ – yes, there is far more than an element of truth there. Wonderful, wonderful work.

  13. So poignant,a poem about not knowing his stories which tells such an absorbing tale in itself……….I can see him at the typewriter…….sad, when one’s stories are locked within.

  14. Really got to me, Claudia. I’m not sure if I’m reading it right, but in my experience WWII vets couldn’t speak of their experience. My dad’s whole crew, except him, survived, As my mom tells it, many had “nervous breakdowns.” War is so sad, for these young men, no matter which side they are on. And it trickles down on all of us.

  15. Claudia, most of us know that silence; that unwritten rule. I assume there’s some stigma attached as well, along with the memories. Guilt, depression… it’s hard to reconcile today’s social media where EVERY aspect of life is public knowledge, as compared to the secrecy then. A very gripping piece!

  16. Wow Claudia this was so good. I know the men who fought in wars were very reluctant to speak of it,my own father told me very little about his experiences. Enjoyed this very much. Everyone has a great story I believe.

  17. a slice of tree, uprooted from a land
    that he tried hard to– &i cannot say for sure
    –either remember or forget…Claudia, this is sad and heartbreaking.

  18. The WWII generation chose to carry most of their memories close to the chest rather than share. Some were too horrific to mention. I like how you captured this, embodied this, with that old typewriter.

  19. Oh I love the part about your mom peeling potatoes…of course you wish you could have helped him open up..get to know him…sad, but well penned as always!

  20. a very poignant write Claudia specially this part “a slice of tree, uprooted from a land / that he tried hard to– &i cannot say for sure / –either remember or forget”…
    it’s really hard for the sufferer as well as for those helpless, silent witnesses…

  21. Sad how war has untold effects on down the generations…wish we could break the silence but perhaps some things are better left unsaid. You wrote a powerful, painful “unstory” here…glad you can find words to express it, keep typing!

  22. If only they could have texted, if only their writing didn’t disappear. I have spatial and sensual impressions, good ones, and, as you say, the black hole. I love the tenderness in your poem.

  23. Your piece is bittersweet. I feel bad for our father who seems to be holed up within himself, aloof, unable to live freely except when he writes. Somehow, he reminds me of my father – unsentimental (at least on the surface), quiet, hard to reach.

  24. Wow. This brought me goosebumps. You’ve captured that emptiness without a past and then the ferocity of fighting to bring it back to life. Poignant. Kind of strikes close to home…I was just discussing how, since my parents split, she kept ALL of the photographs and how it sometimes feels like my past is missing. I used to love to go to the drawer where they were kept and look through them…they were multi-generational, too so it felt like I could meet my parent and grandparents there…younger versions of them captured…I used to study their facial expressions…try to discern what they might have really been thinking.

    Thank you for helping me to bring this back, Claudia.

    Your poem is so powerful.

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