Obituary

(this is a poem because I say it is. I don’t know why I wrote it, so don’t ask. In fact, don’t read it.)

Obituary

TSINGWALLER
HAROLD EVELYN “Jack” of MontMichel, Texas was born on a batting-filled mattress covered by a white, unstarched, 100% cotton percale sheet, from the womb of his mother, the former Jessica T. Southington, of Bryson, on the 17th of September, 1931.

He died of complications: too much beer, too much fear, and a genetic code born of innumerable impregnations of various women over the last several millennia.

He graduated from West Stovall High School in 1948. He is survived by everyone alive today. He was a member of the Siddartha Baptist Church, the Downtown Club of the MontMichel National Bank, and was the last active member of the Texas Communist Party. He worked briefly in the early 1960s as a file clerk in the offices of Sturm and Drang, an accounting firm, before entering oblivion through the doors of obscurity. He had several dogs and was known to have enjoyed medieval erotic literature in his later years.

At the time of his death on Friday night, “Jack” was folding the morning papers into a plastic bag to be deposited in the trash. A pain tore through the left side of his chest, and simultaneously, his left arm and neck. He dropped the bag and it and the papers were falling to the floor as the wall of his left ventricle burst open. His adrenal gland poured into the synaptical canals of his brain and he lost consciousness with the white vision of a wastebasket reflecting the buckle on his sixth grade teacher’s shoe, filling and defining his last moments of being.

He wanders now in the Elysian Fields just outside the perceptible dimensions that encompass Farm to Market Road #834 south of MontMichel, near the old gin.

A memorial service will be held in the chapel of Ramsbottom and Sons Funeral Home on Wednesday at 1:00. In lieu of flowers, few other things in life really matter.

 

David B.Weber, 2007

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The Flapping of Butterfly Wings (connections)

November 15, 1951 Memorial Hospital, Decatur, Iowa.
Danny is born to Bob, a veteran of D-Day and his wife, Gloria,
who really did believe when she was twelve that she would marry
Clark Gable. But Bob is nice. And Danny will go to college.

November 16, 1951 Café d’soleil, Rue Montorgueil, Paris:
Ho and Nguyen gather up scribbled-upon napkins and
slip them into their pockets as Vlad, the Russian, rises to go.
He thinks it is possible, Ho says, as Nguyen’s hand trembles.

December 4, 1955 a living room floor, Decatur, Iowa:
Danny helps his mother separate aluminum icicles for the Christmas tree
while his dad is washing blood from the rocks of Utah Beach
with 2 oz. shots of Four Roses. “Don’t bother Daddy,” Gloria whispers.

December 5, 1955 in the basement of the police station, Saigon, Indo-China:
Nguyen is struck above the ear with a slug from a .32 caliber MAB pistol which has discharged accidentally during a heated and secret interrogation. The young French soldier, who has acted so belligerently during the questioning, vomits when blood and brain matter spray over his hands.

April 4, 1970 Greenwood Cemetery, Decatur, Iowa:
Danny’s flag-draped coffin is lowered into a dirt hole beside the grave of his father.
A week before, Danny stepped on a mine in a rice paddy about 50 kilometers north of Saigon. The last thing he saw was his shredded right leg as it rose in front of him.

On an afternoon in May, 1975 a temple in Hanoi:
Ho lights a candle near the foot of Buddha. He lights it for Nguyen and two million others. He holds an old and rumpled napkin over the flame and watches the smoke from it rise to the Buddha’s face.

Later that same afternoon- in an apartment
near downtown Des Moines, Iowa.
Gloria comes home early from her job at Universal Insurance, because of a headache.
She lies down while watching an an afternoon children’s show.In an hour or so, just as Walter Cronkite is signing on, Gloria will die from a burst aneurism of the right frontal lobe of her brain.

David B. Weber 2007

Columbiana, Ohio- we all have a hometown, this one’s mine..

On the Thursday after Labor Day, the Columbiana Street Fair begins its 3 day run. It’s been that way for years and for every kid who’s every begun a school year there, Street Fair took the edge off the otherwise difficult end of summer.

I wrote this piece for a church paper in 2004. But I’ve been thinking about Street Fair starting and wishing I could be there, so this will get me a little bit closer for now..

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I found this post card on line the other day. Now, the post card itself looks to be bout ten years older than I am, but it is a view of Columbiana, Ohio, looking south- a view that is sealed in my memory. Take away those wonderful old cars, and this is the town I saw almost every day of my life between the ages of four and seventeen.

Isaly’s is the business closest, on the right. It was a dairy store, with a long counter and fountain area. There was a mean old waitress in there named “Dot.” At least I thought she was mean- she fussed at me once for trying over and over again to roll a quarter down the length of the counter. Actually, she was probably about as mean as she was old; as I think back, she was probably all of 40 or 45. I know for sure her name was “Dot” though- she had a badge that said so, pinned over a stiff, lacy handerchief. My children pointed out years later that almost every restaurant we ever went into had a waitress named “Dot.”

The second gabled building to the south on the right, was Tidd’s. It was a “5 & 10”, a merchandising concept which I’m sure continues to exist nowhere. It was named in the days when the store was full of merchandise that cost 5 or 10 cents. Tidd’s was also a central shopping place for the Mennonite population of the area because they carried an array of calico cloth. It burned down in the winter of 1956 and that was of great concern to us second and third graders because Tidd’s had one wall that was banked with fish tanks. Our imaginations ran wild over the imagined fates of those hundreds of little fish.

Directly across the street from Tidd’s was the A&P. Some of you know that was a grocery store even before I identify it as such, because A&P was one of the very first huge chain stores in America. The Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company had its roots in the 18th century, and by the 1950s it was one of the country’s largest corporations. By the 1980s, it had begun to be trampled into obscurity by Kroger and Safeway and the upstart Walmart. I don’t know if A&P exists anywhere anymore, besides in the minds of some of us.

Right beside the A&P, next door to the south in fact, was Ryan’s Bookstore. I guess they sold books in there somewhere, but what I remember best was the rows of pulp magazines and comic books. The pulp covers always showed very mean men (usually Nazis) putting pretty blonde women with torn dresses in some sort of danger. It would have been a bit too daring for a kid in the 50s to actually pick one of those magazines up and leaf through it, so we moved quickly the racks of 10 cent Superman and Wonder Woman comics. And every kid then had a pile of those comics at home, and every kid who had a pile of those comics at home also had a mom who threw them all away when the kid finally left for college. Little did all those moms know that they were throwing out valuable stuff that could have been sold, and the money could have been used to buy Microsoft ot Home Depot or McDonald’s stock and we all could have been millionaires by the time we were 40, or billionaires by the time we were 50. But Mom needed that table cleared off! Oh, well..

The street to the left is Park Avenue, which will take you to Firestone Park, donated to the town by Harvey Firestone in the 1930s (Columbiana was his birthplace). The Park was, and I hope it still is, the town’s heartbeat. It’s where the swimming pool, the football field, and almost 30 acres of tended and tranquil space existed. It was the sight of school gatherings, church picnics, and patriotic holiday festivities. The 117 members of the class of 1967 sat between the football field’s 40 yard lines the night we graduated, which was also the night the Baby Boom was spiking all across America. 1967 remains, for most small towns, the largest graduating class they ever had, before or since.

To the right in the picture is Route 344 to Leetonia and Route 46 to Lisbon. The road forked at a building called the Pattern Works, which I think made patterns on steel for the National Rubber Company, which made forms for building tires, which was the industry that everything else in northeast Ohio at that time revolved around. Leetonia, five miles down down the north fork, was where sixteen and seventeen year olds could buy beer..I’ve been told. Lisbon, ten miles to the southwest, is the County Seat of Columbiana County, and Roy Rogers was born somewhere near there, too.

I love looking at this post card. The memories it gives rise to are full and silly and important and touching and all those things that describe and color memories. Little did I know then that one day I’d keep on driving down Main Street to the south, never to return as a resident. Columbiana is still there in my rear view mirror, but it’s got a nice hold my heart as well.

Same Poem, Two Forms- from 2004

A Place Beyond (in free verse)

 I know that you and I walk, live, move,
and have our being
in the divine.
It is how I live.
But there are those moments that
transcend
liturgy, ritual, tradition,
and all else that is familiar.
Those places where we are

kissed by God

and where we hear God saying (perhaps)
“Thank you.”

They are places where, like Peter
we are invited to the mountaintop;
where, like John,
the fullness of our encounter
is drawn from us in eloquence
and perfect understanding
and where, for awhile,
fear is gone and we are safe,
and where, for blessed minutes,
hope is fully realized.

We cannot go to those places;
we can only be in them
as they occur.

This one: A back-district, government-built
home in South Dakota.
The yard is littered with
beer cans and old cars
and scraps of lives.
It is snowing now.
Inside, brothers, four of them,
Gather ‘round their grandfather’s drum
and an ancient War Song fills
the room, and the prairie beyond it,
is turning white now, and foreboding.
The youngest brother, Elijah,
tips back his head
as the ancestors come and
stand around the warrior
he might have been;
which he is now.
Outside, quieter still,
the prairie waits for the hoof beats
it knows are about to begin.

And this one: Somewhere in the Alsace,
between LeMaster and Le Chambon,
I stop the car because I am blinded by
van Gogh’s vision:
a volcanic hillside is filled with rows
of lavender, sunflowers, and grapevines,
from bottom to top and beyond
into the sky itself
and I hear the perfect symphony
of silent celebrating chords
crescendoing
in Continuing Creation.

And another: An old man,
alone in a cell for three years-
a murderer, a snitch-
unredeemable, unforgivable, forgotten
except
by the One who
knitted him together
in his mother’s womb.
I offer him the body of that One.
And his blood.

Black, gnarled, scarred, bony,
old man hands are extended
through steel bars worn silver
by the man’s standing behind them,
waiting, perhaps, for this day.
He accepts them.
And, behold, all things are made new.

Times like these..
people and places like these..
give shape to my being.
I cannot plan them, they are not mine.
I cannot duplicate them, they are Mystery.
I can only accept them, be in them, and
be ready.

David Weber 2004

Author’s Comments:
“This was a personal experiment in free verse. I wrote the following metered and rhymed version first. It is a Common Melody- it can be sung to the tune of Amazing Grace, or House of the Rising Sun, or even the theme from Gilligan’s Island!

A Place Beyond (the same poem from above, now rhymed and metered)

Somewhere beyond the practiced dance,
Beyond the same sung songs,
Past holy paths and priest-led chants,
Is where my soul belongs.
I’ve been there; it’s a place I know,
beyond my hope and fear.
It’s not a place I plan to go,
It’s never there, just here.
A clapboard shack high on a hill
A drum beat fills the room.
A warrior’s born, the earth is still
in tribute to God’s womb.
A hillside yellow, red, and green
In rows shaped like the sky
The painter speaks in sounds between
Earth’s groan and heaven’s sigh.
A cup is passed, a loaf is shared
“Remember me,” he said.
Hands reach through bars, a heart is bared,
and tears of grace are shed.
Somewhere beyond the practiced dance,
Beyond the same sung songs,
Past holy paths and priest-led chants,
Is where my soul belongs.

David B.Weber 2004

Catch

The smell of a White Pine here in Texas

is wrapped around by the remembered smell of a Scotch Pine in Ohio,

a thousand miles away and two decades after it was shattered

by a lightning bolt.

 

As I walked by the White Pine in therapeutic steps,

moving just enough to keep my knees from hurting in the night,

but not so much that they would ache into tomorrow, There..

I smelled, for a moment,

my dad in the pine wind

and my brother under the high gingko canopy

of yellow-leafed branches,

 

and we were, the three of us, playing Catch..

 

my brother with a catcher’s mitt, oiled and soft,

me with a fielder’s glove, stained in dried mud

and Dad, under the Scotch Pine’s shade, 40 feet away

and 20 years younger than I am now,

scooping (thousands of) boy-thrown baseballs

 

free and

loose

with so much time

and not a single thought of pain

and only faraway, barely formed thoughts

of this afternoon

ever coming to an end which,

of course, it did:

unanticipated, one day.

 

So now I press the two fingers which I had

been shown- by my brother? by my dad?-

to hold against the red criss-crossed seam of

the baseball just so,

I press them against the summer sticky bark of

the White Pine

so I can continue to smell dad..

dad and my brother..

and baseballs mitts

now, for awhile

on the walk back home.

 

@David Weber 2010