PROMPT #349 – A “SHEL” OF YOUR FORMER SELF

Hi, Walt here. I begin with this poem:

THE LITTLE BOY AND THE OLD MAN
By Shel Silverstein 

Said the little boy, sometimes I drop my spoon.
Said the little old man, I do that too.
The little boy whispered, I wet my pants.
I do too, laughed the old man.
Said the little boy, I often cry.
The old man nodded. So do I.
But worst of all, said the boy,
it seems grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
I know what you mean, said the little old man.


Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/the-little-boy-and-old-man-by-shel-silverstein

This week we breech a subject with which more of us here deal than not. Aging. As we get a little older, we become more and more a shell of our former selves. Our highlighted poem by Shel Silverstein (a personal favorite poet of both Marie’s and mine) approaches the subject tenderly and lovingly as the similarity between the little boy and the aged gentleman is compared.

In spite of the prompts I post and the Reading Room features offered on occasion, I am again faced with my mortality and the prospects of aging. Health issues have prevented me from being more of a presence than I’d like of late. But, my saving grace is my wonderful granddaughter, Brooklyn Ariel. She pulls me from the brink of that precipice time and time again.

And so, we come to this week’s prompt. Re-read the Silverstein poem to refresh the concept. Then, you are charged with writing a poem that reflects your process as told to a young person. You are the Old (Woman/Man) talking to a little one, be they a grandchild, a young family member, a wide-eyed neighbor child… someone who can benefit from your packet of wisdom surrendered in your poem. You’re writing a poem in language a child would understand. It’s a bit of a challenge if you are not used to writing a children’s poem, but I have faith in your collective poetic abilities to be able to pull it off. As always, I appreciate each and every one of you as poets and friends.

MARIE’S THOUGHTS:

Nonna Ree's Priorities

The older I get, the older I feel
     It’s hard to run. It’s hard to kneel.
           Can’t cartwheel as in childhood.
                  (But, truth-be-told, I never could. 😉 )
                        Consistently can’t find my words -
                              Can access just perhaps two thirds.
                                    Can’t run too fast. Can’t hear when asked.
                                            My skates and skis were long-since trashed.
                                    But I’ll still race you on my bike,
                        and take a walk or even hike
                and talk and laugh and draw (kind of 😉 )
        and listen well 
  and deeply love. 

© Marie Elena Good, 2021



WALT’S WORDED WISDOM:

POPPI, OPEN THE EYES!

You sit with me upon my knee
as we watch your program on TV.
You’re light as a feather and I’m not
sure, whether you know how loved you truly are.
I begin to doze and I sense you know
and you wrap your fingers around my nose.
You give a shake, to my surprise and you say,
“Poppi, open the eyes!”

I startle awake at your gentle shake
and you laugh at the funny face that I make.
To sleep through our time is a big mistake
so, I wake up, for heaven’s sake.
I give a hug to you my love bug 
and you respond with your simple shrug
as you huddle closer, nice and snug and say,
“Wake up Poppi, open the eyes.”

My sleep eludes me and you exude such joy,
like you do when we sit and play with a toy.
I marvel at the smarts you possess
and the pride I feel inside my chest
tells me you just might change the world,
girl with the straight blonde hair (with no curl).
You search me out and you smile oh, so wide,
you grasp my hand and you hold it so tight.

And I’m happy you came along when you did,
and I laugh when you claim “I’m a big kid!”
And you certainly are, I believe you’ll go far,
and I wish I’ll be here to bask in your star.
But, there will soon come a day when
our time at play will come to an end,
and I will miss you, my lovely young friend
who worked so hard to keep me so young.

On that one day, my eyes will stay closed
and no bit of shaking upon my cold nose
will stir me from my timeless sleep.
And my non-response might make you weep.
But, don’t be sad for your old granddad,
just remember all the fun that we had.
Over time you’ll feel glad to recall it all.
Before it's all gone, it would be wise 
for your Poppi to open up his eyes!

 © Walter J Wojtanik - 2021 

203 thoughts on “PROMPT #349 – A “SHEL” OF YOUR FORMER SELF

  1. Wonderful prompt. First, I LOVE that poem by Silverstein. Walt you speak of something that will eventually touch everyone. No one is immune to aging. We have our own bright stars that encourage us day in, and day out.

    Marie the form of your poem is amazing. Should be in print somewhere.

    Walt, your poem shines with appreciation. Well done friend. Let the good times roll!

  2. THESE OLD HANDS

    The miles of these old hands,
    so to speak,
    have traveled afar to and fro.

    The miles on these old hands,
    might be weak,
    but still sturdy wouldn’t you know?

    Your infant days were soft in these old hands,
    but now they pinch a cheek,
    eager to meet your demands—always, even as we speak.

    Benjamin Thomas

  3. A BOOK OF LORE

    If you see a man of many wrinkles,
    it means he has that many days of wisdom.

    His earlier days of foolery have all dried up.
    His skin begins to fold; when he is old,
    time and again, all over itself.

    A dusty scent of sage rests within his age,
    for he is a book of lore waiting on the shelf.

    Benjamin Thomas

  4. FORGOTTEN TOYS

    We don’t live forever, child.
    We begin as first-rate toys,
    exciting and new—for a while.

    Until the newness wares off,
    then we’re forgotten or broken,
    thrown into the rest of the pile.

    Benjamin Thomas

  5. MEG. I really like your thoughts, even your title has a poetic lilt to it. I relate to your line “Can’t cartwheel as in childhood.(But, truth-be-told, I never could. 😉 ). Thanks for this fun poem.

  6. Holy Dependence

    This noisy world cannot supply
    more Holy noise than infants cry;
    for darlings sincere sonancy
    laments a true dependency.
    Weakness calls on one more strong,
    without you near I am undone.

    Now head frocked grey, in life’s clenched fist,
    once strong now weak our cries persist;
    poor weeping souls in prayer we bleed,
    decrying brokenness and need.
    Weakness calls on one more strong,
    without you here I am undone.

  7. So[Harold] made a very small forest, with just one tree in it.
    The apples would be very tasty, Harold thought, when they got red.
    So he put a frightening dragon under the tree to guard the apples.
    It was a terribly frightening dragon.
    It even frightened Harold.

    We sit the rug in the middle of your little room
    take turns roaring our mouths stretched
    into big Ohs scaring the dragon and now
    and then eating blueberry apples from
    his special forest along the path

    You take the little book and read out loud
    in your expressive babble voice
    words bobbing up and down
    even as you hand me Peck,Peck,Peck
    about the baby woodpecker learning his trade

    want me to read it, too as you read along
    both of us filling every corner with
    words that rhyme and words that don’t
    each rocketing to fill the space
    corners and beneath the bed and
    under the dresser where you hide
    your favorite
    Itsy Bitsy Bunny
    tucked tight with our imaginations

    You pause long enough to launch
    yourself into my lap then climb my back
    until I have to tell you Granma’s not
    your Momma and I can’t carry you
    on my shoulders through the house
    so you hang from my neck like a monkey
    and giggle your fists full of my hair
    that you slide down back onto my lap

    Open Harold to his little pages full
    of purple windows, thousands
    as I run my finger up and down
    skyscrapers only to go back
    to the beginning again and again
    you loving the pages with the policemen
    until we take to roaring again
    attacking each other back and tummy

    how we never tire of this space
    between us so full of a crooked moon
    fingers clutching our big fat purple crayon.

  8. GREAT-GRAMMY’S STORY

    I am so old, you wouldn’t believe it
    but I was once a little girl.
    My hair’s so thin, you can’t conceive it,
    but I once had a little curl

    that made a ringlet on my forehead
    just like a sprig of summer sun;
    I could be bad, but never horrid,
    and knew that life had room for fun.

    I grew up poor, or so they say,
    but felt so safe when I was small;
    we all had food for every day
    although I worked from fall to fall.

    Like you, I grew; I went to school
    and learned to think, and by and by
    I learned that life is sometimes cruel:
    I saw my baby sister die.

    I married, and we had four kids;
    we all lived on a dairy farm;
    Depression came; we hit the skids,
    but I would never permit harm

    to touch my children or my man.
    I worked the fields, and I contrived
    to make our truck into a van
    for eggs and pies. And we survived.

    My kids got married; my husband died;
    My kids had kids, and oh, such joy
    they brought when they stood by my side.
    But I outlived my baby boy.

    And now there’s you, my darling girl.
    I love to sit and watch you run
    while sunlight plays with your little curl.
    Again, it seems, it’s all begun:
    round and round, life still is fun.

  9. Dear One…

    If it was mine, I’d give you the world,
    everything in great shape, shiny, like new,
    and you’d probably like that,
    appreciate it too.
    But I own so little of it,
    not much of it mine,
    so I wish to give instead,
    a little valentine.
    What’s important to know,
    a gift beyond measure,
    the older I grow,
    it’s you I’ll most treasure.

    I have an old man’s body,
    but I know this:
    there’s a happy child deep inside,
    full of joy, full of bliss.
    Now you might say how
    can I be so sure,
    when I can’t see it,
    not even with the best mirror.
    Well, I might just answer
    that I know, this
    the same way I know
    how magically you’ll grow.

    I sometimes wish you joy, or peace, or hope. 
    I always wish you Love,
    and not just on your birthday, nope,
    see, we’re always hand-in-glove.
    My older birthdays might
    lead me to cop an attitude,
    but really, the thing I find most right
    is to live each day with gratitude.
    I give thanks for the friends I meet,
    also for the foods I eat,
    every liquid drop, each seed,
    and thank you for the love I need.
    Thank you for our lovely beach,
    the ocean so within our reach.
    Even though it’s not the norm,
    I appreciate the occasional storm.
    I’m thankful that it comes to mind 
    to smile a lot, and to be kind.
    It’s great to see, with honest clarity,
    I care enough for flawless charity,
    and I’m reminded every day
    I’m grateful that I’ve learned to pray,
    since it’s the perfect place to start,
    to ease my soul, to warm my heart.
    I give thanks for the clean, fresh air,
    and sun and laughter, quite the pair.

    I have known a deeper sorrow,
    still have hope for your tomorrow,
    like to walk without a care,
    simply strolling, being there.
    I’m not rich but I don’t mind,
    knowing I can still be kind,
    see other ways to prove my worth,
    still have hope for Mother Earth.
    I’m getting older, there is that,
    yet I can still be one cool cat.

    How will your future be measured?
    What will you think of as treasured?
    Maybe leave behind regrets,
    be okay with little secrets,
    be comfy, come to grips,
    with life’s quite frequent slips,
    lose the need for lots of stuff,
    let others’ joy give you enough.
    Always return your shopping cart.
    It’s not much, but it’s a start.
    Write to authors when it’s you they touch,
    it inspires them, means so much.
    And when you get older – this is wild,
    get on your knees when you speak to a child.

  10. If I Could

    I said to my grandson just the other day
    If I could, I would, come with you and play
    I’d run and I’d jump and I’d roll all around
    I’d get on my bike and we’d ride up and down
    I’d climb that tree and I’d swing on the swing
    If I could, I would, do with you everything

    I can still remember back when as young as you
    All the fun things that my friends and I would do
    From sunup to sundown we’d go here and there
    Back then it was safe and we could go anywhere
    Time have changed, my dear boy, and I have, too
    I am no longer able to do the things I used to do

    But there are things I can do that’s still lots of fun
    I can tell you great stories about when I was young
    I’ll teach you fun games that meant so much to me
    Like horseshoes or corn hole or monopoly
    I’ll show you how we lived without the Internet
    And how life back then was as good as it could get

    That’s what I said to my grandson just the other day
    Still, if I could, I would, run out with him and play

  11. It’s kind of depressing
    To have trouble dressing.
    To bounce when you fall

    Like a stick.

    it’s really grim
    To become one of them.
    You repeat the things

    That made you SICK.

    Promise me, kid
    To be true to your id
    When you’re wrinkled.

    Let your nickname be Wick-ed.

  12. Here is a poem I wrote to my three sons (think Fred MacMurray) several years ago, but never shared with them (or anyone) It seems to fit within the framework of Walt’s prompt, so I am trepidatiously sharing it with you all.
    Yesterday was my middle son’s 37th birthday. Never have I met so gifted of a person as he; knowledge, learning, musical prowess, problem solving…etc. God has given him so many indescribable gifts that to list them here would sound like parental boasting, as if I had anything to do with it. In light of his extreme giftedness, buying him a birthday present always feels hackneyed, almost compulsory. Yet, we love our boys so, we always do get them something just to remind them of our enduring love.
    Reminiscing of them growing up one day, I realized one of the best “gifts” I ever gave my boys was the freedom to fail, and to not intervene. Even though I was able to prevent the failure, or to remedy it after the fact, I knew doing so would actually negatively affect us both in the long run. So I wrote this poem as a reflection of that “gift”, my gift to them of minding my own business.

    A Father Reminisces

    Long ago, in simpler times,
    my tiny children sang their rhymes
    in playroom brimmed with modest toys
    quite suitable for active boys.

    I loved to sit in still disguise
    observing dressed-up clowns or spies;
    to simply view with rapturous joys
    my boys delight in playtime noise.

    As they grew so grew their reach,
    to ball fields, forests, stage, and beach.
    New toys and sharp imaginations
    fueled their complex machinations.

    I watched them fail through many tries
    to grant discovery as their prize.
    Respecting unique inclinations,
    witnessing God’s own formations.

    My boys now men, the nest have flown,
    and raising children of their own;
    all able men of gallant might
    watch o’er their young through day and night.

    Yet still I watch, and bless, and pray
    that God may grant them everyday
    His gracious gift of oversight.
    Surveying growth is a dad’s delight.

      • Kevin, please share this!! It is SO excellent– rhythm, rhyme, Dad voice…. surely you’ve nothing to fear… I do know that “feeling” as I just sent one off to a daughter… but, this is so sincere, I think they’d be proud to read your pride! Thank you for being brave & sharing!! Terrific

  13. I Get up Each Morning

    I get up each morning
    and wonder
    what I’m going to do.
    Even at my age
    I still have to make my bed.
    No else is around
    to make breakfast,
    so I’ll make my own.
    Every couple of days
    I go to the grocery store
    then go back
    to get what I’d forgotten.
    When I drive, I watch
    young students run down the sidewalk-
    I used to do that, too.
    But now my knee aches
    as I get out of my car,
    and I can’t play.
    And my friends,
    they’re older, too.
    Every five years
    we get together
    to see how we’re doing,
    but it’s not the same.
    Every day, I go to work,
    but I work shorter days,
    and every night
    I look out the window
    remembering what I did
    when I was your age.

  14. I will admit that this is not the nice Mary Elizabeth… it is that social worker person… but I do want to explain something… The place I live is in a trust which is not dissolved until I die and I alone have life living rights to it. A year after my mother died, two of my nephews tried to get me throw out of my home. about a year later another nephew tried to make me sell it because he wanted the money. They have recently been quiet, but pow.. suddenly in the last two months I have been bullied and talked down to and whole list of other things. I stood my ground but they made me into the bad guy again. I can’t afford to move elsewhere, and I really need a miracle…and the servant part… well when my family gathered… I ate before or after them, and served the tea..you get the picture…Prayers please..I am really struggling.

    Served out my usefulness…

    I am angry at the thought…
    My life is over while
    I still breathe and create and live.

    But for some
    When Ma died,
    I was no longer needed.
    My only use was to be a servant,
    And once that was done.
    I had outlived my usefulness.
    For some it was time for me to move over
    And let them have their way.
    What good was I anyway?
    I was just a servant.

    My life has been filled with days
    That they never cared to know.
    I am above how they have seen me.
    My value under estimated
    For I am a diamond in the rough,
    And like a diamond…
    I can outlast and withstand anything
    And my value is not in the roughness,
    But in the hidden.

    It hurts deep in my soul
    That they cannot see me
    And think of me
    An impediment to an inheritance
    That is not theirs until I die.
    For that….
    I plan to live a long, long life.

    My usefulness is not done…
    I will be seventy in less than six months,
    But my mine is clear, and heart is strong.
    My mother’s line has women,
    Who lived long lives.
    I am one of those women.

    Besides I can be that stubborn
    That I plan to outlive them.

    I never was a servant.
    I did what I did out of love.
    It is my time to live my life
    The way I want, and enjoy it.

    I have spoken my mind.
    I will not serve out my usefulness
    Until I am over ninety.
    If you don’t like it,
    TOUGH…
    You’ll survive,
    Maybe.

    Mary Elizabeth Todd
    August 29, 2021

  15. So enjoyed working with this prompt! Both your poems today were so touching and sweet, Walt and Marie, and so endearing. It is a tender moment to talk to the young and to watch them grow, passing on what we know. My father was child-like with his humor right to the end and he was 88 years old. I always saw that as a great gift he gave us.

    TAKE A LOOK

    Here sits my Memory Book
    Of a time gone by
    It is of pictures that I took
    Of people who said good-bye

    Like petals on a flower
    Whose bloom had its time
    When they did shine every hour
    Creating their own rhyme

    I knew them when I was small
    Looking up to where they stood
    They all seemed so strong and tall
    To me, in my childhood

    Now I take their place with you
    I’ve had my time in the sun
    Even though I cherish each day anew
    Much of my growing’s been done

    You have so much to look forward to
    So many ways your life will change
    Just value it all and all you go through
    Stay flexible, life loves to rearrange

    Remember to treasure it all
    Even the times that stretch you the most
    Staying strong is always your call
    Taking a break, I suggest the coast

    Know that life is a gift
    Keep it balanced, remaining grateful
    Find ways to add the uplift
    Anything empty, work to fill

    Rest assured there’s so much love
    Especially deep inside
    More than you can dream of
    Even if it likes to hide

    Don’t forget, make time for laughter
    There’s so much humor in this life
    Even if serious work is what you’re after
    We have to learn to put down the stress and strife

    Please take my book of memories
    Feeling gratitude for those before you
    Let the past be like a secret set of keys
    Staying present, as you shine through

    Let the love of life carry you
    On its ultimate wings of Grace
    Remember every day is fresh and new
    Acknowledging joy, on your beautiful, smiling face

    (c) Janet Rice Carnahan 2021

  16. my genetic disease does not strike until you are in your 50s and 60s… I am at a low point right now.. but am hopeful I think the iron patches are helping in some areas…

    I hate when my iron levels are low

    It isn’t about the weakness I feel
    When I stand longer than ten minutes,

    Or the dizziness I experience
    Each time I change a position,

    Or my legs being restless
    Most of the night,

    Or napping for hours
    When I have things to do,

    Or looking like someone put white face on me,
    And my lips or pale pink.

    Or I get dark circles under my eyes
    And look like a raccoon.

    Or that my hands go to sleep
    When I drive more than thirty minutes,

    Or my head gets to aching
    That won’t let up to sleep,

    Or the fact my fingernails have ridges
    Flat and brittle and difficult to cut,

    Or that I get short breathed
    While taking a short walk to my car,

    Or the people that ask if I need help
    As I struggle to breathe (I tell them it will pass).

    It is the tears I cry, and this perpetual sadness
    That never gives me a relief
    Until my iron is over normal again.

    But it is worse
    When the tears stop and
    I fall into a grey well,
    And I am trapped
    In a web of greyness
    Swallowing me
    Until the iron pulls me up.

    I know when it is falling,
    And it has in recent months.
    I am in that place I either get better
    Or I keep falling until
    There is only one choice left-
    An infusion.

    I am fighting out this time.
    This has control of me.
    I want control of it.
    It takes new iron a month
    To build new blood cells.
    I am starting my third week
    Of patches at night.
    Two more weeks
    Of nausea, but
    If I find this works…
    I am off the roller coaster,
    And back in control.

    Until then
    I cry at everything…
    And will make ginger muffins.

    Mary Elizabeth Todd
    August 29, 2021
    .

  17. My Voice

    When I was young
    I sung scales
    To expand my range.
    I sang show tunes
    And some Italian,
    And I dreamed of singing opera.
    It was a big voice…

    But as I aged,
    I stopped singing,
    My big voice got smaller,
    I could not go four octaves,
    And songs I used to sing with ease
    Became a struggle.

    It didn’t help that I was shy,
    And do not like to be
    In front of people.
    I am a bit of wallflower.
    Last year, I took a step
    And sang a song
    I learned from years ago.

    I didn’t faint,
    And that was a good thing.

    This morning
    I went back to my youth
    To a happy song
    I once sang…
    The words were old,
    But I made up my own tune.
    It was about sunshine, music,
    Springtime and gladness,
    And about how Jesus listens
    Even when we don’t know
    What to say.
    But mostly about sunshine,
    And how blessed I was.
    I sung at my church.
    Then the preacher asked
    “Come to our sister church to sing.”
    I did.

    I may not have the range
    I once had, but
    I still can belt out a song, and
    For a few moments
    I felt joy in my heart, and
    Everything would be
    Right in the end, and
    As I heard said once before…
    And I am not at my end.

    Mary Elizabeth Todd
    August 29, 2021

  18. HOMEWORK

    “You are 20 percent my age, “I say.
    She scans the assigned page,
    runs her fingers down the numbered problems.
    “Is that odd, or even?” she asks.
    “It’s not a problem in your assignment,” I say.

    She looks sideways, her pencil poised,
    the workbook opened to the dogeared page.
    “Are you confused again, Poppi?” she warily says.

    I pause.
    I place my hand beneath my chin.
    I look sideways at her, and assure ,
    “I’m as clear as the math you’re trying to learn. “

    Another pause.
    Her quizzical look.

    “Poppi.” she asks, “
    and rolls her eyes,
    “is this another of your
    homemade word problems?”

    I sigh.
    “In a way,” I say.
    She sighs, “O-kay…”
    and waits

    But I cannot explain the equation in my heart.
    It is above the math she is just now learning,
    the algebra of love,
    the trig of faith,
    and , barely understandable,
    the calculus of looking back.

    © Damon Dean, 2021

  19. Truly I Say

    They say that wisdom comes with age.
    It has a name: We call it, “sage.”
    But Jesus set the record straight
    when friends of His who, in debate,
    approached Him, asking (well, demanding),
    “Who in heaven’s most outstanding?”
    No pause needed, Jesus smiled
    and placed before them one small child.

    © Marie Elena Good, 2021

  20. Fun Things To Do

    Oh, your favorite book is Harold and the Purple Crayon?
    Yes, I love that book. Little girl smiles.
    My favorite color is purple. Do you like coloring
    books?
    Oh yes, little girl says, but I always color outside
    the lines.
    So did I. It was more fun.
    Little girl says, I like to make trees and clouds
    in different colors, but teacher says I have to use
    the right color crayon.
    I liked to draw pink trees.
    Wow. My teacher would be upset if she saw that.
    You know, cookie crumbs stick to my lips all the time.
    Well, I have the same problem with crumbly cookies.
    Know what I want to be when I grow up? A famous
    baseball player. She giggles. Dad says I’m too skinny.
    You are still growing. You can be anything you like.
    Big grin.

    (my colors did not show here)

  21. To my Partner in Rhyme:

    You already know I love your poem. I love your love for your sweet granddaughter (you already know that, too). I think you can guess how much I love this prompt … and look at the excellent array of responses to it! But what I want to say right now is that I have an abundance of admiration for your honesty. You haven’t been well for a long time, and yet you press on. I honestly think folks just reading your prompts and poems wouldn’t suspect they are coming from one who is struggling with health and lack of sleep. Speaking for myself (and I’m sure our Bloomin’ family members agree), we love you, admire your words, and appreciate all the garden tending you are able to accomplish in spite of your health issues.

    Praying our Father lends strength and energy and rest, all as needed.

    Hugs across the lake …

  22. To My Young Creative Friend

    I used to draw and paint
    when I was your age,
    but things didn’t come out right.
    So I stopped.

    I used to sing and dance
    when I was your age,
    but I was afraid of what others thought.
    So I stopped.

    I use to write stories
    when I was your age,
    but I didn’t know how to finish them.
    So I stopped.

    I used to write poetry
    when I was your age,
    but a teacher didn’t like one of my poems.
    So I stopped.

    When I got older I learned
    making mistakes, learning,
    and growing are just a part
    of being creative.

    I realized I could learn to draw and paint,
    and sing and dance
    and write stories and poetry.
    So I started again.

    You like to do those things, too.
    Learn and grow and even enjoy
    the mistakes you make.
    Don’t stop.

  23. THE LAD AND THE FOREST

    The forest has a friend, as it lends a limb
    to him who whistles, runs among the pine, birch, and oak.

    It was well-pleased to find a young lad rummaging
    among the crowd of trees and leaves, skipping,
    leaping, sauntering.

    The small fellow was teased by the symphony
    of skilled breezes sliding, guiding like a classic
    violin and a bow.

    The small boy asks, “just how old are you,
    oh mass of green trees of the forest?

    Forgive me for asking,
    but I’d still would like to know.”

    The mighty oak say, “We’re as old as these hills,
    and witnessed many thrills and ills,
    secrets that happened in our day.

    However, we’ll spare you the pain,
    in hearing old stale refrains; and would rather
    pass along the freshest wisdom for today.

    “Enjoy your youth, take it day by day,
    put it deep in your heart and be on your way.
    Do this, and you’ll always be full of sap.

    The mighty oaks looked down, some laughed,
    and yet some frowned; for the young lad overcome
    with slumber, had began to take a nap.

    Benjamin Thomas

  24. THE CLOUDS ROLL

    The cloud rolls
    forward.

    It knows no other
    way.

    It firmly salutes the
    earth.

    Witnessing secrets of
    men.

    Not knowing what to
    say.

    Until it becomes too
    heavy.

    To relieve itself of
    guilt.

    Contradictions of lightning
    thunder.

    Urgent ardent rains giving
    birth.

    Benjamin Thomas

  25. THE PROVERB OF THE HONEY BEE

    The mother honey bee
    whispered to her child,
    Esmeralda.

    Don’t let the cruel heat,
    or the wild, get you
    down.

    The sweet victory
    of nectar, will sooth
    your worry.

    Keep you sound,
    and make you a warrior
    of the hive.

    Benjamin Thomas

  26. The Disease that Ravaged My Heart

    I can click off their names
    Of those I have known and loved
    Who inherited the curse-
    That leads to Todds dying young.

    Da told me often when I was a child,
    “Todds die young. We are cursed
    To the fifth generation
    For the wrongs our family did.”

    He didn’t tell me what my family did-
    Just that we were cursed,
    And had to live our best life.
    We had to be kind
    To break that curse
    Someone evil
    Had placed upon us.

    It was a whispered legend
    Passed from generation to generation,
    And it had continued
    Because someone always
    Reseeded that curse.

    My father was in his sixties
    When that curse was given a name…
    A genetic curse that strangled
    Our kidneys until our lives
    Had ended.

    I did not know until years later…
    That genetics had not cursed me
    But broke my heart instead.
    My brothers, my father, my aunt,
    And my cousins…
    Would all walk that cruel curse
    Passing it onward
    Not knowing it was hidden within
    Those threads of DNA.

    I have watched the onset of dementia
    Years before it should come calling,
    The pain of a body kept alive
    By dialysis, a machine
    My father often wanted
    To use dynamite to blow up.
    Crippled minds and bodies,
    When they should have
    Been living a good life.

    Along the way
    I learned I did not inherit the curse.
    Some call me the blessed one,
    But I watched them die,
    And now alone carry
    The memories
    Of who we once were.
    I would not call that blessed.

    When you become
    That last one
    Of the family
    You were part of
    When you were small…
    There is no one there understands
    Who you were, and
    Your days are lonely
    Knowing no one will.

    I have outlived my brothers,
    And my aunt who died when she was fifty-nine.
    I outlived her grandson, too.
    If I make it to seventy-five
    I will have lived longer
    Than her daughter
    And my father.

    I have deep scars
    Upon my heart
    From watching them
    One by one leave.
    My heart was
    Ravaged by a disease
    That genetics did not
    Give me
    But robbed me just the same.

    Mary Elizabeth Todd
    August 30, 2021

    • The disease is Polycystic Kidney disease… and every child born to a person who has it– has a 50-50 chance of inheriting it. IF you don’t inherit you pass it on. I have a niece and nephew who has it. I suspect another nephew has it but he refuses to be tested. Sometimes it causes cysts to form on the liver and sometimes in the brain. My father had three uncles who died in their 30s. The younger you are when it causes problems the more deadly the disease will be. We are cursed by genetics but not because we are evil… that was what my father was told when he was young. It is the second largest genetic disease and yet no one knows about it.

  27. IMPORTANT THINGS MY FATHER SAID

    HOT! DON’T TOUCH!

    Every child learns the rule,
    and at least once by painful hands on
    experience. So un-cool.
    But yes, we came to know that hot
    was extremely un-cool. I still have a scar to prove it!

    DON’T TALK BACK TO YOUR MOTHER

    Respect came in various lessons,
    and messin’ with Ma was one learned early.
    The old man went squirrelly when we dissed
    his missus. He truly went nuts,
    no ifs ands or buts.

    BE NICE TO GIRLS

    Another respect in the same regard.
    Sometimes it was hard to ignore
    a sassy kid sister. But our Father mister,
    would forget his rule when fueled by shots
    and beers. My greatest childhood fear.

    I DON’T KNOW WHY I CALL YOU SONNY

    He called me sonny and it was funny
    when he’s follow up with this admission.
    “You’re not that bright!” he’d tease
    although it pleased me to know I was
    what he called the “sharpest tool in his shed”

    DON’T TOUCH MY TOOLS

    Speaking of tools, I couldn’t get it through my head
    that his tools were his trade and it made him mad
    when I had used his implements.
    He’d get bent out of shape and went ape
    sure as I tell you. But he knew…

    PUT MY TOOLS AWAY

    …that I had an affinity for fixing things
    just as he had all his life. So the new rule was this:
    If you use it, put it where you found it!
    A lesson ground into my head from the start.
    It didn’t take long to take it to heart.

    MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE

    As my skills sharpened he showed me
    the power of his power tools. Respect.
    And when using his table saw, his bromide
    was remembered with pride. Measure it twice
    and cut once. Or was that…?

    I DRANK TOO MUCH

    Cirrhosis of the liver came with much sadness.
    And regret. Too many angry tirades on payday,
    always a way to display his dominance.
    But the prominence of that disease did not please.
    The truthful answer was it had developed into liver cancer.

    I WASN’T A GOOD ROLE MODEL

    Tuesday afternoon lunch with Dad was an hour
    in his confessional. His lament sent pangs deep
    and I’d keep quite as he said his litany of faults.
    Two Walts in contemplation; a revelation in the same
    name. He wasn’t as bad as he’d claim

    I WAS A LOUSY HUSBAND (I MISS YOUR MOTHER)

    When Mom had passed, his was the last name she called.
    It galled him that at the end there was nothing he could do.
    He knew he could have been more attentive, even if it meant
    he had to bury his machismo deeper. He’d say, “Mom was a keeper”
    But he wished he did enough to prove it.

    I COULD’VE BEEN A BETTER FATHER

    We never wanted for anything knowing
    if we didn’t have it, we probably didn’t need it.
    We had stylish clothes and kept our noses clean.
    Food on the table, a roof over our heads,
    warm beds… he did ok by us, he couldn’t be any better.

    I’M SORRY

    They say the test of a man is in knowing his limitations
    and admitting when he was wrong. His apology to us
    was as heartfelt as any rule or lesson he could have taught.
    And by doing so, brought us to understand.
    our Father was one hell of a man!

    I’M DYING

    Another Tuesday, he in the throes of chemo.
    “How are you doing, Pop?”
    “Sonny, I’m dying!” The reality slap.
    “But, you know what?” he’d tease,
    “I don’t know why I call you Sonny!”

    I LOVE YOU

    Here was a good man with admitted faults
    and a vault full of knowledge he had passed
    to my five siblings and me. And when all
    was said and done, he had just one more thing to say.
    “I love you”. And that was the most important thing!

    …and then he didn’t say anything more.
    He didn’t need to.

    © Walter J. Wojtanik

  28. I will dance, and I will rise…

    My bones may ache,
    But I will dance, and I will rise.

    My hearing may not be the best,
    But I will dance, and I will rise.

    I may add a new doctor every year,
    But I will dance, and I will rise.

    I may attend more funerals of loved ones,
    But I will dance, and I will rise.

    My hair maybe white,
    But I will dance, and I will rise.

    My eyes have cataracts,
    But I will dance, and I will rise.

    Money is tight,
    But I will dance, and I will rise.

    I have lost love,
    But I will dance, and I will rise.

    I am tired more hours than not,
    But I will dance, and I will rise.

    There are numerous issues
    I have to face
    Just because I am older,
    But just because
    I have to face them
    Doesn’t mean
    I will not find a moment
    To sing a song,
    Dance a dance,
    And rise
    From the ashes.

    Mary Elizabeth Todd
    August 30, 2021

  29. I know I changed the point of view on this but couldn’t help it.

    HARD TO SWALLOW

    I didn’t grow up with the man
    I came to know as father.

    He was first a stranger,
    who sometimes did things for us.

    He was first the man
    I heard was our father.

    We didn’t call him that at first,
    but objectively by his first name.

    Until one day he was upset,
    and demanded his rightful title.

    So we gifted him the pleasure of lip service,
    called him “dad” on occasion.

    But even today those birthed words
    feel somewhat hollow.

    Like an empty shell still warm to the touch,
    nobody’s home, that’s hard to swallow.

    Benjamin Thomas

  30. THE UNSAID THINGS HEARD

    I remember the first
    time I laid eyes on my firstborn son.

    and…

    I remember the last time
    I laid eyes on my own father.

    I’ve always pondered
    what passes through one’s mind

    In those miraculous moments
    of life, or on the verge of death.

    Now those same eyes
    lay hold of my two sons day by day.

    Eyes speak with such a rhythm
    that portrays, or betrays the music of one’s soul.

    Where the intricate bouquet of words fail,
    the symphony of eyes speak ten thousand.

    Will they hear the symphony in me?
    Of all the things I could never utter?

    Benjamin Thomas

  31. DEAR SON

    Dear son,

    Live. Laugh. Love.

    Live your life as it is. One day at a time.
    Laugh hysterically, like its your last.
    Love the Lord, love your fellow man,
    love the truth.

    Benjamin Thomas

  32. I’m having some technical problems. While I can still write and post, I can’t see several of my poems or the poems of others. It stops right after Mary’s poem on This Genetic disease.

    I’m using the WordPress app which could be the problem. I can see everything when I go to internet version of WordPress though.

  33. WISDOM OF THE MORROW

    I am here as of now, but not
    always this will be.

    Do not cry when I am gone,
    I’m rather glad it isn’t you, but me.

    Remember what I stood for
    and my pure manner of life.

    Honor your blessed mother,
    Be the shepherd of your younger brother.

    Pursue the Lord from all your heart,
    take the way of peace, part from strife.

    Take pride in the here and now,
    because tomorrow—may not be.

    Benjamin Thomas

  34. LESSONS ON THE FUTURE

    Objects in the
    mirror.

    Are closer
    than they appear.

    Very near,
    in front of us.

    The light shines,
    indiscriminately.

    Making manifest
    things that will be.

    The future is a mirror,
    casting back.

    What is already
    present.

    Right in front
    of me.

    The future is a reflection
    of one’s past.

    That is cast again,
    within future’s light.

    Gazing back at the source,
    eye to eye.

    Taking flight,
    reflecting back.

    On a one way course,
    to the seer.

    What you see,
    is what you get.

    And what you get,
    is what you see.

    But the real
    question is…

    Do we see?
    Do we have the light?

    Because, objects in
    the mirror.

    Are closer than
    they appear.

    Benjamin Thomas

  35. AGING IS A ONE WAY STREET

    Aging is a one way street.
    And for a time, it’s pretty sweet—
    until there’s a construction, a delay,
    an interruption of one’s life along the way.

    Aging is a one way street.
    Except, no one knows its true length,
    no u-turns, or turn arounds,
    and you can’t repeat.

    Life in the fast lane becomes a slow crawl.
    So you might begin to wonder, is it worth it?
    Is it worth it to keep moving at all?
    Until—you see your family, then you stand tall.

    Aging is a one way street.
    With its share of red, green, yellow lights.
    Intersections, stop signs, cities, many sights.
    No one really knows when the trip is complete.
    No one really knows the end—except the street.

    Benjamin Thomas

  36. Both your poems, Marie and Walt, made me laugh and tear up! I’m a newcomer to your site but discovering it has made my day!
    pax,
    dora

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