Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Red Floor


The weekly world tour of TFE's Poetry Bus is underway

and our ticket this week, thanks to Bus Driver Barbara, is to use the opening line

"I got down on my knees and smelled the new linoleum..."



One Last Gift


I got down on my knees and smelled the new linoleum
that dressed the kitchen floor
of my grandmother’s house in cherry red,
luscious red, the red of ripe berries
tangling with sweet madness all along the weathered wood fence down the hill.
Sweet madness it is in my grandmother’s house,
echoing the gentle madness in her eyes
as she surveys the small world that is her kingdom, the new red floor
he laid for her in the winter of her life, to give her one last joy
before her mind retreats beyond the fence
into the wild untamed wood where spirits whisper in the high-flung trees.
I smell his ancient love for her, three-quarters of a century old,
as fresh as a bowl of red berries,
although she has drifted and barely knows him.
His love is plain in the precision of the laying, each tile snug against its mate
in the long procession across the floor.
His care for her lives in the perfect square
where tiles meet walls, a sign of the tenderness with which he treats her,
though she treats him
with the civility of strangers meeting for the first time.
Her new floor is a sea of cherries in which she may wade girlishly as she performs
the ancient chores of sink, stove, table, and ironing board,
an instinct she has not lost,
as she has not lost the habit of tying on the apron,
wielding the mop and dishrag,
keying open the can of Spam and frying it up with crisp white chunks of potato
to serve for supper with the tomatoes
he brought her this morning from the garden
and presented to her with a certain shy flourish, red fruit in a yellow bowl.
She acknowledged his gift with a nod of her head
and a lowering of those far-gazing eyes,
cloudy with spirits that long to leave
and drift down the hill to the wild wood beyond the fence
vanishing into the high-flung trees.


Start the tour here.

*****

22 comments:

Brian Miller said...

there is a chill there in the lines...a quiet schism in the feelings they have for each other...beautifully written...a bit sad...

evalinn said...

That´s very beautiful, thank you for sharing!

Argent said...

This actually brought tears to my eyes. " lowering of those far-gazing eyes,/cloudy with spirits that long to leave/and drift down the hill to the wild wood beyond the fence
vanishing into the high-flung trees"

Simply gorgeous.

Karen said...

Wonderful take on the prompt! There was no way I could turn that line into poetry, but you managed to make it your own and only a prelude to this powerful story. Great work, Chris!

The Bug said...

This is lovely - a testament of love lasting even when the object of love can't really remember it anymore...

On another note - I love spam with potatoes & fresh tomatoes! Although in the interest of health we eat TURKEY spam now...

Poetikat said...

I bow to your mastery! This was sheer gold from start to finish.

"His care for her lives in the perfect square
where tiles meet walls, a sign of the tenderness with which he treats her,"

That line really touched me.

Kat

Peter Goulding said...

For once, Brian I disagree. I don't find it sad at all. A seea man still performing acts of love for the love of his life slowly slipping away and I think that's marvellous. Well written.

Jingle said...

awesome post,
you are super cool!

Syd said...

Chris, this is really lovely. I too find it a bit sad that her mind is slipping. But it is good that she was loved by someone who wanted the happiness of the floor to buoy her psyche. Such a bittersweet poem.

Magpie said...

His love is beautiful, but the situation is sad...life always is when someone loses someone they love regardless of the circumstances of the loss.
It is a sign of your power with words that you evoke such feelings in your readers. :)

Monkey Man said...

You captured the essence of that era beautifully. I wasn't aware of the TFE poetry bus. Pretty cool.

Sam Liu said...

Beautiful poem, the characterisation is wonderful, it truly draws you into the wonderful narrative - which is itself woven with a grace and skill.

TechnoBabe said...

A great picture. Wow, your mom's mom.
I can picture the red floor and the relationship between the two who live there, grasping at the lucid moments left to them in their twilight years. It is so loving to think of them together.

Pure Fiction said...

Nice one - this really brings to life a certain time and a way of living that you don't hear about too much anymore.

I loved these lines:
the tomatoes
he brought her this morning from the garden
and presented to her with a certain shy flourish

Sandra Leigh said...

I'm not even going to choose a line - there was so much to love, and I, too, have tears in my eyes.

Titus said...

That is simply stunning. And not so simple. Beautiful, precise images and incidents described so vividly that two spirits pervade the whole poem, and I can understand the sad/marvellous debate above, but for me the grace of the poem is such that I focus on the wonder of their love.
Really excellent writing. And from that prompt!

NanU said...

Lovely, from start to finish, and wonderfully rich in feelings and images. I feel like this grandmother was mine too.

the watercats said...

wow, is the only word for this poem. So, so beautiful...
congrats also on your recent anniversary :-) you guys look ace!

crazyfieldmouse said...

bought tears to my eyes. all those tiny snippets from their life together and his devotion to her, what else is left to him but to carry on loving. Most of us can but hope for such a love.
thanks for sharing
cfm

Jeanne Iris said...

Such endearment here! I love this!

Totalfeckineejit said...

A eulogy to undying love. Beautiful and joyous in it's sad tones. Fantastic words. I particularly liked..'each tile snug against its mate
in the long procession across the floor.'

which seems much greater than the sum of it's parts.If that isn't what poetry achieves I'll eat my hat!

Woman in a Window said...

Chris, THIS, this is gorgeous. I love the punch of red from all directions, that certain red of shine and promise that spoke distinctly of a time. And too, his love which has survived even her forgetfulness. This is a beautiful worthy poem.

xo
erin

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