Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

June 07, 2004

Monday Morning Report, and a Creative Excursion

Yesterday was our church's annual picnic. This was combined with the celebration of the finish of the 40-day PDL thing, so there was definitely a mood of celebration (or, for my part, relief). At the picnic, which was held this year in the parking lot rather than at a downtown park (as in the past), we also saw 17 people be baptized. That's always very exciting.

I watched Big Fish over the weekend. What superb story-telling. This is one of the finest movies I've seen in a while, and it presents undoubtedly the best death-bed sequence ever filmed (IMHO). I'm a sucker for this kind of magical, fairy-tale storytelling anyway, and I'm also a sucker for stories that investigate the father-son relationship. I highly recommend this one.

In fact, it inspired me to write something concerning my own father. But before I get to that, I want to take a minute to speak of poetry. I read something once about a young college student, an English major, who showed a few of his poems to an English professor. Now, the student was a brilliant young man who would go on to become a well-known author and literary-critic, but I guess his poetry was, well, not very good, and there's nothing more difficult to read than bad poetry. The professor had a private conference with the student. He pulled open a drawer in his desk and showed the student its contents--a mess of paper, scraps thrown into the drawer every which way. He said, "I also like to write poems. I write them all the time. Then I throw them in this drawer and forget about them. I advise you to get yourself a drawer like this."

Well, and I actually think that's good advice. The trouble is, this blog is my desk drawer. I make no claims whatsoever for these little creative excursions of mine, but if someone else likes them, of course I'm pleased. If not, well, it's easy enough to move on to another blog. So this is the prose-poem I wrote after watching Big Fish. It's called, Secret Pocket.
I don't remember Indiana. Not that much. Only the railroad tracks that ran behind the house--that's where my brother fell and cut his hand--and how the trains came through in the night, and the walls trembled. I remember that. And I know from pictures that there was a cat, and a fuel-tank in the back yard, silver like a space ship. And I can still see my Dad standing in the doorway. It seems he's just back from a long voyage, from somewhere far away (although this is almost certainly a romanticizing elaboration of my own). And he says he's brought me something, and it's in his pocket. This is almost where the memory stops. I'm searching your pockets, Dad, one after the other. Not that one, you say. Nope, not that one either. Each pocket is cavernous, is a kind of world, and I must be thorough. I'm on tiptoe, and getting worried. Will I ever find the prize? And then you say, your face flashing brightly, "I know, it must be in the secret pocket!"

Many years later I would come back to Indiana. It was cold and stark. They played a tape-recorded Taps beside your grave, and three men fired rifles in the air. Three crisp pops, followed by an awesome silence. Then they folded the flag in a special way, and one of them brought it to me and saluted. Hesitating, I touched my forehead with the fingertips of my right hand . . . and the train passed, and the walls trembled, and my brother cried, and the cat leapt to the bicycle seat, and you laid down in the silver space ship and it flew away. And so I never found the secret pocket.


Blogger Rong said...

Thank you for leaving your drawer open.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Have caught you dropping by my own site and was surprised to find myself linked here. Am enjoying what you have set on the table. My own father served in WWII, somewhere in Italy, and was one of but two men from the original unit that made it home without a scratch. He then died in '60, a victim of an accident as "silly" as a wrench dropped on his head. His death had much to do with my eventually coming to Christ.....

My own poetry tends to deliver humor and rhymes every other line or so. I wish I had the gift of what you "tossed in your drawer" here. Peace, my friend....

7:33 PM  

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