Friday, May 19, 2017

For my Grandmothers

Grossmutter and my uncle Alfred

Grossmutter Comes Flying                                                       

A wind that could tear off shingles

whips over the ridge all night,

leaving a sky clean and blue as an Alpine lake.

The last few leaves cling low to the maple trees,

the newly bare tree tops scraping the sky.

The sound of an ax chopping wood comes up the hollow.

My uncle’s spirit is chopping wood, a chore that’s never done.

The ancient and everyday repetitions of labor-

splitting firewood, canning fruit, 
patching clothes, knitting hats-

the ancestors nudge us, saying “listen to the wind!”,

reminding us to keep moving, prepare for winter.

No tender admonitions here!

Grossmutter comes flying over the trees in a vision,

braving vast expanses of the sea,

four children, one just a baby, wrapped in her skirts,

my father pushing out from her embrace

to gaze beyond the ship’s deck to the New World.

“Fly!”, she says to me. “What holds you back?

None of us know what that first step will bring.

It is your Grossmutter in the spirit world

and I tell you-

the world changes shape with every step you take.

Just go!”

A russet maple leaf

lets go, and spins out of sight.

Nana appears.

She has thrown off her rose-colored apron 
and put down her wooden spoon.

She is twenty-five, pin curled and all brand new, 
eyes opened wide.

“Granddaughter, yes, go!  With each step, 
the world rearranges itself before you,

a Rubik’s Cube, a house of mirrors.

Take that step!  As we live and breathe,

other souls live and breathe too,

and arrange their lives to respond to you.

Step into the dance! The music you call,

and the next, and the next under your gaze will fall.”

At this she spit-polishes her new red shoes,

steps on board the trolley car,

smiles wide at the driver,

and spins off into the skies.

Annelinde Metzner 
October 28, 2009     

     This week was the birthdays of both my grandmothers, Louise and Sophie, May 15 and 16.  I've meditated on what they were like in their youths, and both gave me advice.  A strong immigrant family, depending on our love for each other to tough it out together, and their advice is, "keep going!"

Nana, my Mom, and brother Richard
At Sophie’s Grave                                            

At your grave, Sophie Katerina,
my bare feet planted in the grass
where your small body lay turning,
wild thyme purple, pungent at stone’s edge-
I run my finger inside the “T” of our name.
Rough, mottled, unpolished marble,
pocked and weather-worn, hiding nothing,
I too stand like the stone,
feet planted, hands open,
nothing to hide, absolutely nothing.
These ancestors have seen it all-
my subtleties of behavior, my quirks like their own,
my choices, my desires, my impulses known and unknown.
”Go on”, I hear her say, 
”Go on, all I’ve done is to stand behind you,
singing girl, speaking girl,
we’ve come this far, now go on.”
I stand silent as if all had been said,
as if I were ready for the next thing,
as if my head rested on her knees,
her tender rough hands in my hair.

Annelinde Metzner      
July 1994 

Myself in the old farm kitchen

The Farm Kitchen

Cups and cups hang from hooks,
plates of every color and design in the cupboard,
enough for a field full of neighbors some hungry noon.
Rafters and ceiling a greasy black
even now that the big wood stove is gone,
flavored of pancakes and kuchen,
Sunday chickens and potato soup.
A ladle and a dishpan over the sink
where the cold, clear water gleams to the taste.
On the table, flour, salt and sugar flow,
foods that keep and stretch
and fill the belly to last all day.
Mice scurry across the floor
and hop up on the big table
to gawk at the evening game-players,
forgetting themselves momentarily
and then startling to the squeals.
Foot baths on the step, warm and sensual,
makes you feel clean all over!
In the morning, the aroma of coffee,
and a child’s dreamy inheritance
of the never-empty pot,
abundant evermore.

Annelinde Metzner
Catskill farm
July 13, 1992

Mom and myself around 1958

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