Genealogy Has Its Limits

Matthew T. Ryan
July 24, 1891-March 11, 1933

Wrapped in shadows,
in folds of others’ memories,
how often mother told stories she’d heard of you
as if their very repetition
could bring her father to conscious memory,
swath your spirit in flesh.

Your schooling ended
after three years.
You met my grandmother at a dance
in a hall above the general store.
You graded the county road
with a weighted railroad tie
dragged behind a team of horses.
You plowed the field in chill rain and fell ill.
You named a newborn daughter
for your mother as you lay near death.
Your sister, a nurse, could do nothing for you.

Such jarring, disparate fragments do not make a life,
nor do photographs my mother enshrines
of a man forever in his prime,
blue eyes ghost-white in fading images.

My mother’s youngest child,
older than you were at death,
I write these things
wanting them to mean something
beyond how time
feeds on us all.

Matthew T. Ryan

July 24, 1891-March 11, 1933

Wrapped in shadows,

in folds of others’ memories,

how often mother told stories she’d heard of you

as if their very repetition

could bring her father to conscious memory,

swath your spirit in flesh.

Your schooling ended
after three years.

You met my grandmother at a dance

in a hall above the general store.

You graded the county road
with a weighted railroad tie

dragged behind a team of horses.

You plowed the field in chill rain and fell ill.

You named a newborn daughter

for your mother as you lay near death.

Your sister, a nurse, could do nothing for you.

Such jarring, disparate fragments do not make a life,

nor do photographs my mother enshrines

of a man forever in his prime,

blue eyes ghost-white in fading images.

My mother’s youngest child,

older than you were at death,

I write these things

wanting them to mean something

beyond how time

feeds on us all.

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s