Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Sunday, June 15, 2008

This Far

The following is based on two people in my extended family who celebrated the turn of this century in their own incomparable way. It was put to paper just as soon as I heard the story from another relative but in recent months editing has sadly become necessary and so the poem has had to evolve with the time.
I considered that such a singular celebration between an elderly husband and wife was sufficiently touching enough to be captured in this way.

This Far: New Year's Eve, Ireland, 1999

Amidst the chaos of the world
festive souls greeting one another
in spirited drunken merriment

mumbling about the Millennium
how it would not happen
again in this lifetime;

amidst the electric hum of history
happening, unfurling its words
in a clutter and tumble of frolicking

there was a corner of the world
hushed and untroubled
and a tiny house where one light burned.

And beyond that single gleam
a room with two old souls;
he and she sat by a coal fire

almost seeming not to care
as the clock neared midnight
no dancing, no exultation.

In their half-century together
they'd watched the world change
over and over, seen it wear new faces.

They had always worked their
fingers raw on the farm
uncomplaining, strong, silent

working through the frigid winds
from the edge of the Atlantic
the edge of the universe.

Spent their together years looking
and still no word to explain the way
sunlight dancing on green-grey water

could make a body feel mighty
and humbled at the same time.
Those two, rooted among their dear ones

as much a part of the soft landscape
as the moody sky and long grass
salt spray and honest mud,

they turned to each other then
as that last chime sounded,
faced each other as friends.

One of them said solemnly,
"Well. Who'd have thought we'd get this far?"
and they shook hands.

They made tea after that
drank it wordlessly in the new century
all essentials uttered, another day closed.

Now one of them is gone
And unnoticed in the noise of things,
the world has changed some more:

by a chair left stunned and idle
or by the uncommon absence at noon
of a contented shadow on the stony road.

This far, they said, who'd have thought?
Of course, this far, that far
will never be time enough, not nearly

but the slow step and amble of a life
spent kindly and lived for one another:
worthy of honouring with a handshake.



polona said...

having read this, i'm deeply touched.
a beautiful and moving tribute to a life that hardly exists anymore.
thank you for sharing.

hele said...


How beautiful.

It made my heart grow and then contract.

Beth said...

oh how very beautiful. I've been thinking about elderly people and long marriages over the last few days. I had an occasion, through work, to visit a couple in their home--64 years of marriage--their love was quiet and their care tender. I drove home in silence very touched by my time with them.

Pauline said...

Not only is the story beautiful, it is beautifully told. There are some marvelous lines in this:

"till no word to explain the way
sunlight dancing on green-grey water
could make a body feel mighty
and humbled at the same time"


"by a chair left stunned and idle
or by the uncommon absence at noon
of a contented shadow on the stony road"


Barb said...

What a beautiful and moving piece of poetry.

I'm hushed by your talent. B

Pappy said...

Take it from a fellow poet - That's poetry. Kudos to you. Are you published? I am going to come back and read that again. Great job.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful and very touching.


Jaime said...

Oh this is so very beautiful.

It made my heart yearn for my grandparents, who seem so vividly reflected in this poem.

Thank you for this little piece of beauty and deep connection between two soul mates.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Polona, it really doesn't exist much... that's exactly what I meant when I said the world changed a little more. Something vanished, and does every time we lose someone from a certain generation. A whole way of life goes along with them. Glad you liked it.

Hele, thank you, you've always got something inspiring to say. Especially when it's about my poems it means a lot.

Beth, 64 years- my goodness that's so rare. I imagine after that long they wouldn't even need to communicate in words anymore, but would know the other so well... it seems like that's how it would be.
It's always a blessing to meet people that like who can remind you. Thanks for sharing that.

Pauline, I'll take that as the highest compliment since I've read your poems too and found them to be beautiful. The second verse you quoted is one of my two favourites. Thank you!

Barb, Now you've gone and hushed me :)

Texican, no, I've never had anything published. Your comment was truly inspiring- I kept those poem back for a while because it's so personal but now I'm glad I shared it. To be called a 'fellow poet' by yourself feels great- I
appreciate the compliment.

Steve, I'm so glad you liked it. Thanks for your words.

Jaime, I'm happy it made you think of someone you care about. I wanted it to be universal as well as personally about two people I knew, so that means a lot.

Wow. Getting words like all of the above makes me very, very glad I posted it.

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I welcome comments and thoughts.