To close our time on the Tain Way I offer a poem written and presented to the congregation of the First Unitarian church of Ithaca New York 25 years ago, 1992. Interspersed are final photographs from our walk on the Tain Way of 2014.
The poem content is not directly biographical / confessional although it draws upon my experience as a single parent in the 1980’s through 1990’s.
A Poem Read To The Congregation
a crisis threatened an Irish village
men women children filled the meeting place
everyone participated especially the infants
in spite of it all a plan was arrived at
after the vote
from the back of the room a man called out
….you know the type…
THIS WILL BE OUR PLAN
WE FIND OUT WHAT IT IS.
my son John and I have a photo of him at 5 years
standing on a chair up to his elbows in rubber gloves
the caption reads “Two Men On Their Own.”
i had agreed to accept a divorce from helen
only if john was left with me
one night in particular stands out from that time
i did not sleep for planning what john and I would do
seven years passed
not a long time
since then we’ve moved
found another a better life
raising John alone was not part of the plan
Its been just john and me
helen gave birth to john
to have a part of me
in case of loss
i felt the same way
and she understood
feminine voice in our home
“Little House on the Prairie”
“Little House in the Big Woods” twice.
Here is an excerpt from a newspaper article by Wilder
that has an emotional resonance for me
Wilder was in her 50’s.
Out in the meadow, I picked a wild sunflower, and as I looked into its golden heart, such a wave of homesickness came over me that I almost wept. I wanted Mother, with her gentle voice and quiet firmness; I longed to hear Father’s jolly songs and to see his twinkling blue eyes; I was lonesome for the sister with whom I used to play in the meadow picking daisies and wild sunflowers.
Across the years, the old home and its love called to me, and memories of sweet words of counsel came flooding back. I realize that’s all my life the teaching of these early days have influenced me, and the example set by Father and Mother has been something I have tried to follow, with failure here and there, with rebellion at times; but always coming back to it as the compass needle to the star.
So much depends upon the homemakers. I sometimes wonder if they are so busy now with other things that they are forgetting the importance of this special work. Especially did I wonder when reading recently that there was a great many child suicides in the United States during the last year. Not long ago we had never heard of such a thing in our own country, and I am sure there must be something wrong with the home of a child who commits suicide.
we give so much to our children
what’s left over though
William Carlos Williams wrote
it is difficult to get the news from poems
yet men diet miserably every day
of what is found there
it is not difficult to understand this
to live it is another matter
you have to live it
in order to have something
never the less
my emotional resonance in reading that piece
did not come from the sentiments Wilder so skillfully evoked
though I shared them it was that sharp part
i did not agree with it lacking a reason
and so must have re-read
fifty times a hundred
so committed to speak today
and began to write
something was bound to shake loose
then those lines form Deuteronomy
gave themselves to me
Before you this day is set good and evil, life and death.
Choose life, that both you and your descendants might live.
“Home” was a twist of these lines
as long ago as 1923
Wilder was experiencing our present
contemplating the unthinkable
Wilder held her own experience as a shield
and denied such a tragedy
could ever touch her
for me the result
is a beautiful poisoned apple
by a treasured friend
life is a gift
not entirely under our control
Yes we must be careful
but for some this is not enough
we must forgive others