The cool of green shade
steps to a secret place
locked doors of a shed
the innocence of childhood lost
in a matter of minutes
and no one knew
for years and years and years
dare break the silence even now
Grandpa did a naughty
and it remained
forgotten for years
until you shared your story
of what happened to you
there were other times
of lesser evil
but sketched in memory
enough to sting
so many decades later
I have forgiven
but no longer forgotten
from so early in life
I adored him
etched deep wounds
though the misdemeanors minor
by most standards
just enough to give pause
if I see a secret place
all too inviting
for the sins
a forbidden intimacy
just enough to
add guilt and shame and fear
where they do not belong
in the shade
As twilight falls, as we approach August, the little sparks of light appear nightly– fireflies, lightning bugs, glow worms, whatever one chooses to call them. They start early in July– one sees a few sparks here and there but as July draws to a close, twilights dawn with a display of tiny fireworks. Why do they hold such fascination for young and old alike? Why do they bring us such a sense of wonder as they flicker on and off in some rhythm unknown to us but titillating in their communication with each other?
Of course I remember, like everyone else, catching fireflies. It was a ritual my Sicilian grandfather reenacted with me every summer. Grandma would save me a peanut butter jar, nicely washed with little holes in the top she made with an old-fashioned can opener. Grandpa and I would go out for an after-dinner walk, a treat in itself. It was an excursion with a purpose, a hunt to catch those bugs whose tail ends light up, on and off, I learned later, to signal mates.
Grandpa always managed to catch one and we would walk home victorious, with me clutching my precious jar with my favorite kind of bug residing within. There was the exciting story we would tell Grandma and she would give me a lettuce leaf in case the bug should be hungry in the night. Then to bed. And then the real waiting began– lying in the dark with the jar on the bedside table waiting for my captive bug to alight. I would wait and wait but no flickering light appeared and before long I would fall asleep in the arms of disappointment.
It was even worse in the morning. The lightning bug did not look well. His antennae would be damp and sticking to the jar in a bad way. He was not eating the lettuce leaf. And this was my first lesson in the perils of capturing and imprisoning a wild creature. They did not behave like they did when free. Finally in a child’s form of despair, I would let him go and he would leave so much the worse for wear. What is this human quest to capture animals for our own pleasure at their peril? Think zoos, circuses, the exotic pet trade. It is awe gone rancid, becoming greed, selfishness, a fetid form of supremacy.
Years later, on my husband’s great aunt’s farm in Ohio, the trees would be filled with lightning bugs mating. It was a sight I had never seen. Whole trees would light up at once and upon close examination one would find hundreds of fireflies. It was a cathedral of flickering lights that inspired reverence for God as we beheld the mystery with our hearts.
And now, living in a converted barn which allows many bugs to enter despite window screens, I no longer want to capture fireflies and put them in a jar. I am happy to see them fly freely inside and outside the house. They bring sheer delight as they light up in the darkness. I am a child again with my grandfather, as I stay awake as long as possible, watching the little flickering lights inside the room and outside in the trees. I think of simpler days and after dinner walks with Grandpa. I think a lot of my grandparents with nostalgia, and the magic of this tiny bug amazes still. But wild creatures belong in the wild. A lesson to be learned from this Midsummer Night’s dream.
A Secret Love
My husband’s look of love scares me,
turns off all emotion,
rendering intimacy hysteria for me
and forces a series of dogged pursuits by my Husband
whom I adore more than life itself.
Can’t turn off the flashbacks
loved Grandpa so
but not enough to do some hanky panky
that even as a child I knew to be wrong.
Bad enough the little sex games we did
when I was REALLY little and knew nothing of right or wrong,
just a fun game we played
till caught by Auntie who pronounced us both “disgusting”!
Why I never knew.
My fear that Grandma was jealous just made her laugh,
“Silly girl” to think such things.
What was there to be jealous of
between a little girl and her older husband?
What a deed!
She told me years later
he never was unfaithful
in all fifty years of marriage
“Ha!” I thought but never said,
“what he did with me
was that not infidelity?”
“You do the hanky panky
and you turn yourself around
and that’s what it’s all about.”
I remember that lewd smile even today.
Will it take me to my dying day to forget?
Oh how I loved him…
Taking me for after dinner walks
to catch fireflies,
silently sitting at the window together
at night after dinner,
watching the neighbors below,
Grandma in the kitchen,
Just him and me
a quiet bond between us,
or telling me bedtime stories of his youth.
I was the seductress,
dancing in a hula skirt for him,
with tennis balls tucked into my aunt’s bra for breasts,
to his songs he played on the mandolin.
Oh how I loved him!
No one knew.
I forgot about the “thing” between us till decades later,
when a friend talked about her incestuous abuse.
Oh how he loved me!
Arm around me always on the living room sofa
watching American Bandstand on the TV
giving me his whiskey-soaked cherry,
teaching me about art
making me the artist I am today.
Preaching the middle way to me
of relevance later, way later,
as it takes me a lifetime to learn the meaning of “I am Bipolar.”
Oh how I idolized him!
He carved the Lincoln Gettysburgh address, you know, in D.C, at the Lincoln Memorial
and many other illustrious statues.
He was a revered lawyer, working with veterans,
a self made man,
knowing no English
when he first came here
all alone at 16
and went to night school to learn English
while working as a sculptor
and then to law school.
He was a hero
helping poor veterans,
himself wounded in the war.
He was a hero
but no one knew
he was my hero.
“Of course he was having strokes,” my doc says.
“Maybe that explains the incest,” he says to me.
Men stick together
To defend the unspeakable
Which I just now speak out blasting loud and clear
in the blogosphere
for all to hear.
Naughty girl/old woman!
Just now allow myself the anger
while preserving the idolatry and Grandpa’s love
for such a love, and not irony this,
such a love is so VERY special!