Things That Once Were


I wrote poetry, once upon a time.  I still do, actually, when the mood strikes me.  Generally, now, the mood that strikes me is puckish and what I write is humorous.

Grandpa at 90

I was remembering, recently, a time when my grandfather was sitting in my mother’s living room and mulling things over.  He was matter-of-fact.  He always was, with a puckish sense of humor.  I remember him laughing at some hobbling fellow who had told him that when Grandpa reached 60, as he had, he’d like to lean on a cane.  Grandpa was in his late 70s then. 

He was in his nineties that evening, a WWI veteran, a musician, a fly fisherman, gardener – my Grampa.  He was talking about life, and he said that young men think of all the things they want to do in the future, while an old man like him knows that the future contains his departure. 

Grandpa lived to be 100 years old plus a month.  His last words to me, when I hurried to the hospital to see him, were ‘I love you!’.  He died in his sleep.

On the evening I mentioned, I started thinking, and I ultimately wrote a poem.  I like the form of a sonnet, and that is what I wrote.  My grandfather loved it.  And I lost it in the course of many moves.  I didn’t have a computer at that time, just paper.

It was entered in a poetry contest of sorts (the kind where you ‘win’ and get to buy a volume of poetry that contains your effort.  I didn’t bother) and then it was lost.

Recently, I tried to find it.  My mother went through all her papers – no luck.  But she gave me a number of old poems, which I put away.  Last night I was sorting through them – and here it is, not lost forever and regretted, but complete, tying the past to the present.

 
                                                  Sonnet for my Grandfather 

                                Could I by some chance make you stay with me
                                Beyond the moments given you by time,
                                If I could somehow stay your destiny,
                                            Unravel fate’s thread and unsay life’s rhyme –
                                I’d spend a thousand summers by your side,
                                Distill them to the touch of one clear day
                                Within the stippled shade where brown trout hide,
                                Watching the water skimmers’ silent play
                                            Along the surface; I would stay with you
                                And hold your hand nor would I hurry on
                                As once I did, to matters fierce and new,
                                Whose call to me was brief, whose thrill is gone.
                                            But at your side I’d cheerfully remain,
                                            Knowing those times could never come again. 

                                                                    Diana Wilder  © 1979