Thursday, August 02, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Meet My Family

A post for Poetry Thursday:

A while back, immersed in genealogy, I found myself wanting to write about the interesting stories that some of my relations seemed to have. Since I didn't really know enough about them, I sprinkled the meagre facts with a seasoning of imagination and wrote a series of brief poems. Since I'm immersed in genealogy again as I prepare for my big trip, it seemed a good time to share some of them.

Of those below: David is my greatgrandfather's brother (on my father's side), a watchmaker who emigrated from Scotland to the United States and arrived in Wyoming on the first ever train to reach that far across the continent.

Alick/Amos is my greatgrandfather, (on my mother's side, alternating between male and female lines) who was a bit of a mystery until I managed to work out that he was a bigamist who had changed his name. I believe he probably married his first wife because she was pregnant, and when the baby died he left her, joined the militia and went to Scotland, where he married again under a different name.

Ann was my greatgreatgrandmother's sister (aunt of David above). Census records revealed that both she and her shoemaker husband were deaf and dumb. Sadly, their four daughters seemed to have been similarly handicapped, and all died young in the poorhouse. But for a while, things went well. I came across the account of a deaf and dumb marriage ceremony in a genealogy magazine, and I put the two stories together.

Wyoming 1867

He arrives in Cheyenne with the railroad
There in a room behind the shop
he mends watches,
shutters drawn
against the heat and the dust.
They tick the years.
The railroad moves on, the trains
rumble westward. For a second
he lifts his head, then bends to his work,
sets all the watches to high noon.

Leeds 1876

He is running away again, but
this time his wife comes too
Five children journey with them.
He opens his cabin trunk,
packs spare shirts, a Bible,
his carpenter’s tools-
hammer, plane, chisels, auger-
and just in case, several extra names
all matching the initials
on his handkerchiefs

John and Ann
Stirling, Scotland 1842

They make their vows like this:
hands on heart, hands on the others heart,
hands raised towards God.
He mimes a grave, signifying
“till death us do part”.
Now wed, they make a home.
She stirs porridge, scrubs floors,
gives him daughters.
He crafts shoes, which speak for him,
eloquently, with many tongues.

Today's photo celebrates my garden which is beginning to bloom again. Spring is on its way!


welcome to my universe said...

You have a fascinating family! Enjoyed this post.

Rose Dewy Knickers said...

I loved them all Catherine, but most of all, "Wyoming". I can see the dust and hear the train whistle that briefly drowns out the gentle tick of watches and his heartbeat.



BreadBox said...

What a lovely way to remember your family! Thanks for the visit yesterday, and for the kind words!

anni said...

what a beautiful way to celebrate your ancestors. my aunt did a genealogy, maybe i'll try this!

Clare said...

Hi Catherine! You've done a glorious job of bringing your ancestors back to life -- I'm so glad I got to meet them. And your poem of John and Ann is especially incredible -- I love the shoes speaking for him with many tongues, and the vows John and Ann took. Brilliant. And beautiful photo too!

Rob Kistner said...

What a wonderful post... thank you Catherine!

odessa said...

"and just in case, several extra names" -- i love this line! what an interesting family history you have.

i also love how your wrote in your profile that you struggled to catch a ball or do some cartwheels, that's just like me when i was growing up and wanted to be like everyone else. thank goodness, not anymore.

thank you for sharing these poems.

tumblewords said...

These pieces flow so nicely. Love the final two lines...

pepektheassassin said...

I loved all of these poems-- what a great genealogical expression! I also am immersed in genealogy. It's lots of fun. We would get along great, I think.

Constance said...

Wonderful! I loved the Wyoming poem. Very powerful even though it appears quiet.

Marie said...

This was awesome! A great way to do geneology and capturing the spirit of your family. Your family will enjoy them for years, and understand a small part of who they are because of these people.

This Girl Remembers said...

I wandered over from Poetry Thursday and am so glad I did - these poems are stunning! What a lovely way to connect yourself to long-gone family members. They literally gave me chills - particularly "John and Anne". Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

- also a Catherine, otherwise known as This Girl Remembers

AnnieElf said...

What a brilliant idea to takes the snippets of lives and create a continuum of family stories in poetry. All of the most important is counted in; all the least will find another home at another time.

...deb said...

Lovely camellia.

The trio of poems is a lovely construction: clever, meaningful. Their own reality matters.

leonie said...

those poems take me to those places, as if i am standing there watching what you describe.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

You always have such great photos.

I awarded you with a thoughtful blogger award on my page... please drop by when you get a chance, and pick it up.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

Crafty Green Poet said...

I enjoyed these stories from your family tree, thanks for sharing them.

Dick Jones said...

A fine sequence, concise & deceptively simple but vivid & incisive.

Dick Jones said...

A fine sequence, concise but vivid & incisive.

Dick said...

Whoops..! Oh well, it shows how impressed I was!