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'Present'

"Present!" It's a lackluster answer (1) to simple life question, "Hi! How is it going Mom? You feel OK?" She was lonely for sure, saw no chance of a rescue, She fought for her kids, though art dreams went askew, And a family certainly got in her way. No doubt, path to art's future got slowed by congestion. She had talent and beauty that both kids saw clearly, At times found expression, 'twas hard to hold in! But poor health held her back, a weak heart (that's for certain!) Her "Present" admission, reply covered stain! Both a boy and a girl born. Twice doctors opine, "You are risking your life and may pay for it dearly!" Alda cries, feigns no blame (could life be life's best answer?) (2) We try some new lessons as seasons suggest, And like stoic she weathers life's ups and its downsides, Though landlocked (3) at home, Mom does flow with earth's tides. As she celebrates joy, kid's win's rarely compressed (4) But the child, sometimes feels he is her ego's dancer. (5) Mom's life 'Present' to all, though own life was less privileged Now kids are grown, Mom turns at last to "Art's Gym!", (6) Though her mom chopped Mom's braids (7) to make Effie's hair pretty, Mom's quest to be fair blesses most to a "T." Not the bully who hurt older brother though, Jim, Post her rimshot (8) with firewood (Jim's trips home not challenged). With maturity, Art (9) grew more 'Present' to others! Both art and her woodcarvings flavored her song, I see Mom's life these days in a different light though There's lots of life's garbage I don't care to tow In a bag on my shoulder. (10) Her lead? Sing along! And my dream's to be 'Present,' perhaps one like Mother's! Brian Johnston 26th of August 2018 Poet's Notes: I hope the reader will forgive my temptation to give you just a tiny bit more knowledge about my Mom's incredible life and her impact on others. There is, forever, of course, too much to tell. (1) This poem was inspired by my sister Holly Johnston who reminded me of the standard answer Mom would give to any inquiry about her health, "Present!" Its tone always implied she had little hope for her dream future. Except for her kids, in a small town, I think she feared her talent would never really be known or appreciated. (2) What a concept! Might the only real answer to any of life's problems be to just live through them, and then try to appreciate the fact that you survived on the other side? (3) Landlocked at home - This phrase quite poignantly suggests Mom's dilemma, an artist with no adult to share her dreams or gift with really. (4) Compressed - a word meant to imply that a child's wins, their accomplishments in life, too, are not fully appreciated or valued by the those closest to them. Life gets in the way! (5) Ego's dancer - It was a bit of a burden for me as a child to feel at times, as I did, that Mom was living her own life too vicariously through her kids, and that she in some ways made us responsible for her happiness. (6) Art's Gym - Holly and I were so proud of our mother when she began to blossom after we both left for college. Her watercolors and especially her wood carvings of both animals and 3-D landscapes were terrific to me. (7) I can still remember Mom's eyes tearing over when she told me how her mother would cut off Mom's long braids at times to make her, Effie's hair look fuller. It was like her mom had stolen all that mom valued in life. (8) Rimshot - I think this line is clear, but there is an in retrospect funny note that I have to share here. Alda and Jim were attending a one-room country schoolhouse, and an older boy kept picking on her brother Jimmy, who was always small. When Mom hit the boy in the back of the head with a stick of firewood, there was a lot of blood, and her teacher cried out "Oh, my God, Mary Alda! You've killed him! You've killed him!" Since the bully didn't die, I can say now that I found this tale highly amusing! But he sure never bothered Jimmy again! (9) With maturity, Mom's art began to be noticed in Northwestern Oklahoma at least. And my Dad Quincy, too saw it with new eyes after she sold several paintings to friends for over $500 a piece. (10) The idea here is that too many of us carry our failures and injuries around in a bag over our shoulders! And to what purpose? We should throw trash away. One more lesson learned! Just go on with your life! Sing your song!

Copyright © | Year Posted 2018




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