Root and Branch

cropped birth certificate

My eyes burn and the clock ticks,

and still, I cannot find the right little baby named, Harriet.

I don’t even know if I have the right mother,

and still, I search for this elusive little girl with one or two “t”s.

And I already have five James,

who could be her father, her brother, or her son.

And when once I have narrowed it down

to the proper Harriet,

the one with the proper number of children,

with just the proper names,

I will work on another branch.

Or is it a root? Heavens, I sound like a gardener!

Next, I’ll be pruning, watering, and fertilizing things.

Watching to see things grow.

Digging up things that have died.

No, no time for that.

I’m off to rescue fair Joanna,

a Coffin born, yet buried a Knight.

Not for lack of trying mind, I was bound and determined

she would be a Lunt,

but no, not our fair Joanna.

And did it in style with eleven children,

almost all of them boys to go into the Navy.

So, what next? Walk through another cemetery?

Check on that date of death?

Or should I switch to something really challenging,

and go looking for lost Uncle Harry

in Florida? Texas? ??

lost to time

lost to time

as i turn the pages of the old

photo album,

my mind recalls the stories

the pictures bring to mind.

and in my mind they evoke the love

and happiness of simpler times,

of many voices,

of a full house.


but the house is empty now

and the voices are silent.

just the wind blows

passing between their stones.

even the names are worn.

and only the wind can recall

their stories of that time,

of those stories in my mind.


**laugh, laugh**

**laugh, laugh**

…but all he had were…

and you stop. nothing.

there is no word there.

it’s not on your tongue,

not on the tip or

hiding underneath,

and you haven’t swallowed it.

it never came out of your head.

you look at your sister as if it might be

on her face

no, it’s not there, stupid woman

it’s still in your head!

look there!

and you do

but it’s not

there, that is.

your head is blank

it’s like a black balloon on the inside,

just some air and black

and expanding

but you need that word.


right now!

where is it?

what is it?

forks? pictures? apples?

no… no… no…

your hands are fisted

and you can feel

how red your face is getting

you cast your eyes

here and there

hither and yon

and shake your hands


the word is right there!




and the black balloon of your mind


more and more

until you feel that it must be

as big as the universe

and as empty

as your Ben & Jerry’s ice cream container

at the end of the movie

you KNOW the word.

you DO.

WHAT is it?

your sister starts to prompt, now

apples? bananas?

pineapples? kiwis?


no, no…

uhm… cherries?

no… o

oh! oh!


but all he had were oranges and I wanted lemons, so I

didn’t buy anything.

**laugh, laugh**