FISHING FOR MEMORIES, Elizabeth Crawford

Fishing For Memories
by Elizabeth Crawford

russ-crawford-going-fishing-at-left-foot-lake

photograph (c) Elizabeth Crawford

Times when I think I remember too much.
Sixty years plus is a mountain of memories,
each one a small stone or huge boulder.
Getting older makes it worse.

Sometimes curse the flow
on those days when I want to look back
and can’t seem to catch anything
but shadows slipping through doors
closed tight with locked latches.

What I remember most fondly is going fishing
with my father. Cool morning mist dissipating
slowly, like soft sensuous dream disintegrating
at awakening. Silence that wasn’t really silent:
water lapping, birds chanting morning prayers,
fish jumping for flying insects then dropping back
to gently plop leaving only an echo of ringed ripples at surface.

Threading hook with live crawlers
caught the night before with bare fingers
at edge of flashlight beam
(had to be quick or they’d slip back into darkness).

Letting the line down until it hit bottom
then reeling it up a bit so bait
would move with current, look enticing to perch
feeding in weeds.

Smell of dad’s cigarette drifting through air,
not many words shared, some quiet teasing
about who would catch first one,
the biggest, the most.

Long ride back from Sturgeon Bay or some other direction.
Didn’t make much difference, I was willing to go wherever he led me.
He didn’t make demands that I be a certain way,
dress in a certain fashion,
not be quite so passionate about things.

Coming home with a pail full of perch.
Silently watching him clean them, helping
where I could, taking my turn at scraping, cutting and gutting.
Hardest part might have been moving back into that world of others,
mother and siblings, having to share him again.

Elizabeth’s process notes:
My relationship with my father was both emotionally supportive (he was the only one who told me, in my formative years, that I could and would do whatever I set my mind to) and complicated by the shadow of a car accident that left me (at age four) with a permanent scar that shelters my ear, a steel pin to patch shattered skull bone, and a very dark pre-surgery prognosis of Cerebral Palsy (the doctor called me his little Miracle Girl for years afterward). I have often wondered if the guilt we shared silently was the reason for our bond or if it was allowed by my Mother to insure that neither one of us strayed too far away from family and home.

The photograph was taken, I believe, about ten months before he passed away from pancreatic cancer. He couldn’t join us in the boat (sick with chemotherapy) so was fishing from the dock of the rented cottage my husband and I had arranged for a family vacation. When I and my son and ex pulled into the dock grinning, he leaned over and said, “You caught a big one didn‘t you? I heard you yelling across the lake.” When asked how he knew it was me that had caught the Northern, he said, with a cheeky grin, “Cause I taught you everything you know and you will always be my favorite fishing buddy.”

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HAND ME DOWNS, Elizabeth Crawford

Hand Me Downs
by Elizabeth Crawford

helen-olive-gunville-age-16-1934

photograph (c) Elizabeth Crawford

A holder of hope, a whisperer of dreams.
Her blood in my veins, songs we sang together.
Words from a journal she tried to keep to please me.
Still lifes, landscapes carefully painted in vivid detail.

She prayed each night, counting beads
of the rosary always kept beneath her pillow,
each filigreed orb slipping between silky skin of bent fingers.
A holder of hope, a whisperer of dreams.

So many images, memories like fine-line cracks
in plastered and painted walls of my mind.
Each day, new ones seemingly forgotten,
her blood in my veins, songs we sang together.

Tiny feet crawling swiftly across awareness.
Sometimes causing me to flinch away
from sadness and grief at her passing.
Words from a journal she tried to keep to please me.

Once said I had healing in my hands, surprised
when I nodded that I knew, that others had said the same.
Her hand in mine giving gifts to new generations,
still lifes, landscapes carefully painted in vivid detail.

Elizabeth’s process notes:
I was one of four children, and the one who carried none of my Mother’s physical characteristics. Although our relationship was strained early on, she became a role model in many ways, teaching me that one is never too old to begin to act on a lifelong dream (she found a teacher and began painting in her mid-sixties, while I met my teacher and began writing poetry just before turning forty). I became one of her primary caregivers in her declining years and only then realized how much she had handed down to me about seeing the vivid details that daily surround each of us. The photograph is my Mother at age 16. She was so proud of the fact that in it, she “weighed only 98 pounds and wore a size 4 shoe.”

The poem started as a cascade poem, using lines borrowed from another poet as the first verse and repeat lines used at the end of others. Re-visioned, I wanted to keep the form, because memories often seem to follow that echoing sort of pattern.

Elizabeth Crawford views poetry as an educational and therapeutic tool. She hopes to continue writing until she can no longer hold a pen. She began her poetic journey in mid-life and only desires to catch up before running out of ink.