Saturday, April 24, 2010

his story

Argent is driving the Poetry Bus this week, and the challenge is to write about skeletons in the family closet. I've been trying unsuccessfully to write about my larger-than-life uncle since he died in October, but I was approaching it from my emotions. For the bus, I decided simply to tell his story.

You can find family stories of the Bus driver and other passengers here.

his story

a young boy, a sad one,

abandoned, alone,

a soldier, a looker,

a lover when grown,

a talker, a salesman,

the jetset, the cash,

the women, the takers,

the booze and the hash,

the horses, the races,

the Caddy, the oil,

the money he made

gushing out of the soil,

rich men and leaders

to take every call

the higher you rise,

the harder you fall;

five wives and five children

one buried, then four

abandoned by him

just as he was before;

the lying, the losses

the excess, the waste,

the bridges he burned

all collapsing in haste;

unforgiven, abandoned,

his end like his start;

but sift through the ash,

there's a boy’s broken heart


  1. Forgive all the blank space before the poem. Blogger and me...

  2. Really like this Karen, starkly told and slightly tragic but not sentimental, it felt like one of those film segments that flashes through a series of images to show the passage of time in someone's life. It left me sad.
    thanks for sharing

  3. Superb. I'm rather envious - and don't worry about the blank spaces, I've been having that trouble, too.

  4. Wow Karen, this is great, not over nostalgic, just has a real simplicity and emotional kick to it. Brilliant.

  5. I really enjoyed this series of snapshots of a life - a real life. Great stuff.

  6. I like that you were able to impart a sense of the man in couplets. You gave his, if not complete history, the highest and lowest points.

    If I were you Karen I think I may make him a character in a longer piece of prose.

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  8. This is very tight, and I think you made the right choice to tell the story with bare detail and sequentially. It makes for a powerful poem, an insight into a man who I suspect would not have liked people to have an insight into him, as well as an insight into your feelings for him.
    I like it, and the path you took for it. Spare, affecting.

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  10. Blogger is also doing weird things to me!

  11. Great rhythm and rhyme and a most intriguing topic for a poem. Strange how some people replicate their own parents and some go the opposite.
    Loved the blank space at the top - it has a nice serene feel to it.

  12. I really enjoyed this because the rhythm of the poem told the story as much as the words did - and that last phrase just ripped my heart out & stomped it flat!

  13. Is that a Francis Bacon painting at the top?

    There's a very classical rise-and-fall here, made bleaker by the lowercase-ness and made grander by the narrative. It has a good rhythm to it... I like.

  14. Karen- reminded me of the DD Lewis film "there will be blood" Damn depressing it was. You have a knack for turning thought into perfect beat. It all goes down so well. ~rick

  15. but sift through the ash,
    there's a boy’s broken heart

    Love this line and the heart takes courage to see it. Nicely done Karen

  16. Crazy Field Mouse - Thanks for your careful reading. His life leaves me sad, too, for nearly everyone affected, including him.

    Dave - Envious? He had much, but much to lose, too. Thanks for your comment.

    Niamh B - Thank you! As I said, I have tried and tried to write about his death with no success. I think it was his life that needed telling.

    Argent - Thank you for the prompting on this. I was in a real writing funk, afraid I'd never write again. I felt that I had no poetry in me at all until I responded to your challenge.

    TWM - There probably is a novel here (and much that is only glimpsed in the poem). My uncle was a true tragic hero, brought down by his own character, but the real story, in my mind, is how one person or event can set in motion so many other tragic events. The fact of his having been abandoned affected generations and multiple people. That's the real story of this dysfunction. Maybe someday, I will write this.

    Titus - I suspect you are right about that. He certainly didn't mind getting attention, but he wouldn't want us to see behind the actions. Thank you for your comments on the form. Emotion just didn't work for me on this.

    Peter - Yes, he was certainly not a "poetic" person! He would, however, have made a great study for psychology! Thanks.

    Bug - Hello, and welcome! Thank you for visiting. I look forward to reading more of your work.

    namingconstellations - Hi, Joseph. I actually thought of you as I posted this because I know how you shun rhyme, so your comment is welcome and gratifying! Yes, that's Francis Bacon. I should have tagged him. Isn't he something? This painting has the gravitas I was looking for with my uncle.

    Rick - I've wanted to see that movie. I'll have to Netflix it (you know poets, we love that depressing stuff). Thanks for your daisies and for commenting from hither or yon!

    Linda - You would have been fascinated by this man and his story, Linda. He needed some healing, for certain. Thanks.

  17. This is just goosepimpling stuff.. and gut wrenchingly simple, heart breaking in that a whole life can be perfectly described and analysed in a moments reading, fabulous!

  18. Karen, you've told his whole life story here in these lines. Sounds like it didn't get the start in life that most of us are lucky enough to get.
    He certainly lived a full life - and left deep impressions behind him.

    Love the rhythm you put into this.

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  20. Karen, great poem.... when I read the end, I involuntarily went 'awwww'. So sad. Great writing.

  21. The last stanza was profound. The good and bad of one's life can be measured in the heart of your inner child.

  22. Quackster said it. And a broken heart in a pile of ash is quite a powerful image.

  23. Wow. That was stunningly gorgeous in its structure. Even in its sadness. Even in its tragic cycle unbroken.

    I can't remember a more hard-hitting eulogy.

  24. Watercats - Thanks. His story is really novel-worthy - great American tragedy in the classical sense. Who knows? Maybe that'll be my retirement project!

    Margaret - Thank you. Some adults either don't know or don't care about the burdens they're leaving to their children. I see it every day in my work, and it is heartbreaking.

    Domestic Oub - That's a very gratifying response! :-D

    Quackster - "The child is father of the man." Yes, Mr. Wordsworth. Yes.

    Dominic - Thank you.

    Jason - Thanks once again for your very generous comments.

  25. Hello Karen,

    I love the way you write! I have read many blogs but whenever you update I enjoy reading your posts! :)

  26. Excellent sort of hurtling Richard Coreyesque poem! It puts me in mind a bit of the title character in Citizen Kane, with his Rosebud.

  27. Nikita - Hello, and thank you so much for your sweet compliment.

    John - Thanks! He certainly self-destructed, but that's not what killed him. I can see the parallels with Citizen Kane, too. He certainly had his Rosebud that affected every choice he made in his life, I think.

  28. Always running late these days. Had family for the weekend, so I missed this. I like its spare detail, so evocative without fooling around with wasted words. What a story.

  29. Echo to Linda. All the highs and lows... success and short-comings... in the end it all comes to ashes. And someone to sift through it. Brilliant piece.

  30. Hi, Karen! I echo all the positive comments! Yes, you have been successful in telling the story of a larger than life man (I love the couplets, too). "The money he made/ gushing out of the soil" are awesome lines. Sadly enough, I've known so many people like him. They didn't make that much money, but they began to rise financially...then crashed and burned. It's sort of a self destruction, isn't it? So very tragic.

    I love how you give us the young boy in the beginning, and then you bring us back to him in the end as a reminder of who he was...sad, abandoned, and alone. I think you could write an entire book of poems about him. Thank you for sharing him here and showing us his humanity. This is a moving and powerful poem.

  31. Great poem Karen.A whole story, and he certainly LIVED, that's always amazing but it is funny sometimes that no matter how far you 'travel', you can never get away.