Our grandparents knew
Guy Lombardo and champagne
are the keys to New Year’s Eve.
Hours before midnight, in the shoe store,
I could not keep my big mouth shut about the boots you found
which you were terribly excited about.
I just had to say I had bought that same brand last year,
and the heel came off
within weeks. Don’t you remember?
Your excitement faded. Your smile dimmed.
You no longer wanted the boots.
From that moment on, nothing I could say would convince you to buy them.
So what if they might fall apart in 3 months?
What right had I to take away the pleasure you might have found
from your first new pair of boots in 3 years!
my foolishness almost forgotten
I asked you to dance to “Auld Lang Syne”
when it came on the music player. And then
“Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think).”
It was intimate, exciting,
just the two of us,
dancing in the candlelight
to Guy Lombardo.
Who knows what the new year holds in store,
for us, or our shoes.
For all you bathtub readers out there, here’s audio only of “Reading in the Tub” from the forthcoming audiobook version of “A Flash of Insight and Other Poems” by David de Young.
There was no turkey, no dressing,
no jellied cranberry sauce, can-shaped and sliced.
There was no pumpkin pie.
There were mashed potatoes, lingonberries,
and meatloaf, but no day off work. It was just a Thursday,
and we might have been thankful
the stores were at least open,
so there was no rush to complete the shopping
for wine and last-minute ingredients for dinner.
We might have wished (had we thought of it)
that our youngest wouldn’t wake in fever
at 1 a.m. and need to be kept home
on Friday, causing a missed day of work
that in America would have been a day off anyway.
Still, these frustrations bring up in me
a thankfulness such a day as Thanksgiving exists,
one day each year we are reminded to be thankful
(as we so easily forget), thankful
we have any days at all, whatever they might be full of.
But next year, for heaven’s sake, let’s make a pie.
Because that summer we met the sea air
was warm and the wine flowed
freely in the ship’s cafeteria;
because, like you, I was on holiday and not
worried about mundane responsibilities and
such details as country of residence;
because as we talked deep into the night, I could not
find a reason to stop; because I wanted
to live in Europe and because you had never been
to America; because I did not know
how to say goodbye; because when
I asked you to meet me in Barcelona,
you said you’d meet me in Florence; because
when I asked you to meet me in Iceland
you said you’d meet me in New York;
because after months of phone calls, me
on my back porch in Minnesota, you
on your bed in Finland, and because of
things I can’t even remember now
I proposed aloud why don’t we just . . .
and you said quietly well, okay.
Listen to David de Young read “A Flash of Insight” from “A Flash of Insight and Other Poems” – promo from the forthcoming audiobook:
Basim opens his eyes from sleep,
looks up to open sky. In another poem
this might be a dream. But in this one,
splinters of wood and concrete
where his wife had slept, a gooey
wetness on his back, his bed
collapsed in a crumpled V.
For reasons he will not know
until tomorrow, he cannot get up. Tonight,
he calls out to the daughter he covered
and tucked into bed just hours ago,
she who brought his evening clothes
when he came from work, would sit close
as he watched tv, as he hoed the garden.
He calls to his wife under stars that
twinkle, silent and cold as fire.
(Read the news story that inspired this poem here.)
I set the timer for fifteen minutes, pushed start,
then sat, waiting for Inspiration. First I tried
this, then that. Then “the other thing,” but
eight minutes later, still, I had no poem!
Then, with six minutes to spare, huzzah! I was saved!
By Form! Two stanzas! Four lines each! No rhymes!
Less than a minute left now, but nothing to fear.
I knew I would be done by the end of this line.
Saturday morning in Espoo.
Puddles in the gravel driveway
My wife has driven away in the rain
with our first daughter to
gather mushrooms in the forest.
These days, I barely recall my American routines
Five years abroad, I am practically European.
Our second daughter naps. I prepare for
my brother-in-law’s birthday party.
Voilepäkakku, coffee early on, and
later, for some, drinking in the city.
The stillness of this house in rain
is something I have come to love.
Rubber boots and coats by the door, through
which my wife and daughter will soon return.
Elvis stopped, twice; grinning sidelong
That toothy, twinkling, contagious smile,
Then continued on. “Unchained Melody.”
That night he held the world in his arms and squeezed.
“I need your love, I need your love.”
Six Tuesdays later he was still squeezing,
But on Wednesday I got up, and Elvis did not.
We should remember our mothers.
We should sing for them while we can.
(Note: This poem is a loose imitation of “The Mower” by Phillip Larkin.)
The smell of Kirk’s Hardwater Soap is how I best remember my grandfather.
There are a few other memories of him as well,
like once when he got mad after hitting his thumb with a hammer.
And him not getting mad when I spilled red paint
all over the basement workbench and floor.
Then there was his long open back gown when I visited
him in the hospital before he died of cancer when I was seven.
There is a memory too of him washing himself
in Kelly Lake, after swimming out to the sandbar,
but mostly it is the smell of that soap.