Monday, April 05, 2010

Southern Journeys - Papa Jim

I just saw this excellent news clipping about the opening of the African-American fine arts exhibition "Southern Journeys" at the Appleton Museum in Ocala, Florida. A wonderful mention of Sonny's (aka Leroy Allen) portrait of our grandfather "Papa Jim"by the museum director, Ruth Grim, on the second page of the article.

It also brings back all my own memories of that awesome giant of a man. I captured him myself, actually at Sonny's suggestion, in my poem "Papa Jim" from my book You Beckon. He etched him in pencil and I tried to etch him on the tip of my poetic pen.

Here is that poem:

Papa Jim

He came into view, a giant of a man,
as red as the Mississippi dirt he farmed,
as liquid as the artisan springs that flow
unbidden from craggy cliffs and hills
that dot his land.

We poured from the whale-shaped chevy,
road weary but bright-eyed, seeing
for the first time to remember, our dear
Papa Jim.

I think I wrapped myself around a knee, my
brother somehow landed in his arms, while
mother, his daughter, beamed that this
one man's family was, for a moment at least,
all home. Our own father, arms draped about
my sister's neck, waited for his turn.

We were Kansas hicks, not quite city, but
completely dumb to the nature of chickens,
goats and pigs. He led us into hen houses,
rode us through pastures, taught us to swim
in his muddy pond. He was oblivious to the
scent of Magnolias but they became his smell

and when my mind conjures it the box of colors
in my memory come to life.

We must have driven back across
that wooden bridge that had no rails,
surely there were hugs and waves
goodbye, and at some point his image there
standing in the middle of the road shrunk into
the distance,


but though decades have mounted
and the earth has claimed him I have
never left those sun hours spent in
the radiance of his wholeness.

Through him I am.

You Beckon - 2002 - Write On Writers, Publisher - Peggy Eldridge-Love


mister jim said...

Wow..excellent prose. Some family
is epic. I was just reading a few journals to prepare for subs.
A style like this looks like
Spoon River Review or similar.
A 'prompt' for another might be a scene you hadn't talked about

I think it's great to
re-introduce a book on a regular basis now. In the chaos and fog
of the net a strobe is a good

Peggy said...

Jim, thanks a lot. I am aggressively courting new journals for some of my poetry and just rejoined a few of the great poetry critique groups and workshops on line that have played such a positive role in my poetic development. I really like your suggestions.

And, yes, it seems like You Beckon is one of those evergreen little books, thank Goodness. That is a true blessing.

Hope all is well with you. Look forward to reading some of your wonderful works real soon!