"Who are you?"- The only thing to muse over, While I wait for time, Too fast, too fast, to catch- Late, again? Always. Time smiles and dies away.
The date is set in memory Of a bright, near moon Casting a shadow
over the awe of it. Oh, but I ache in codeine cups, Spewing tears out ducts Down runways, well worn lines- Aging speedways
to the high teas Of my long, long, journey.
There is nothing that has caused me more frustration and, in some cases, outright confrontation,
because some readers do not understand that the "voice of the poem"
is not always the "voice of the artist".
is a vehicle" that can be maniupulated in many ways to do many artistic things.
Here is a clip of Whoopi Goldberg, an artist whom I identify with a great deal.
I think her "Parrot Joke" best illustrates what I'm trying to say...Ed :)
My Islands of Smith and Tangier are Sinking
The salt waters are rarely
more than three feet deep in a hundred mile radius of what remains of the islands, making for the richest breeding
grounds in all the world for their prized, soft shell, blue crabs. The Bay seems so calm. Everyday washes a little
more away though with an ever faster beating and tow, an unkind progression, quicker than in the decades before. The
erosion is inevitable and the shrinking so very visible as my beloved islands of Smith and Tangier, dubbed, “ Islands
out of Time”; islands of the lower Chesapeake Bay, islands of my ancestors, islands of my roots, go sinking.
The communities are shrinking with the young anxious to escape to the mainland. A few, the hardiest, do not want to go. It is in the blood, this feistiness: a tenaciousness born of centuries of holding on. Those
that take the mail boat travel light with heavy expectations. Some never return but most do, at least for visits
that start at first once a year for the annual camp meeting, and then become less and less frequent as if to emphasize
the receding sands. They bring back foreign sounding words and a twisted way of thinking. Everything is said in
a straight and unimaginative way. Speaking in opposites as is the custom is forgotten. There is a fainter resonance
in the Elizabethan “a”s and they talk so fast, almost in a chatter that takes the breath away. The
cats run under the boardwalks in search of silence and to escape the mainland smells.
Those that are island
bound don’t mix well anymore with these. The one have nothing but the optimism of the day, the other have everything
in a pessimism of the times. The one drink on the sly while the visiting relatives no longer know the value of a lie.
The older islanders politely pretend to listen, their thoughts lost in the crab shanties just feet away. Everyone
though comes together in the big camp meeting tent. These islands are Methodist and Joshua Thomas part of their history.
The name Wesley is still common. These camp meetings held in the single huge tent have always been the biggest
event of the year. Some things are primary, so sacred they are inviolable.
It is then that the bond is felt
again and rekindled. There is no blame, and even if some forget to speak in opposites, that odd tradition of saying
precisely the backwards version of what you mean to say, the truths no matter how spoken,
straight or twisted round to need unraveling,
they still ring true. They are inherent in things primary that even separation will not eradicate; values set
in the cement of faith, optimism, and an acceptance that in the end the storm passes and the sun breaks through.
Everything passes away except things primary; things not bound by any boundaries or no less solid with the caresses
of the sea. They can’t be covered over or washed away. They are buoys that mark the channels and point the
way safely into any harbor, any harbor you may find yourself sailing into, island bound or not.
Modeling a flagging medal below the Mason Dixon Line, Big Daddy was given a
warm Buckler hastily chilled by ice cubes snapping quickly. Big Daddy is triggered at the sound of cracking. His needs require preparation and some consideration for denial.
Big Daddy expects applause if not
standing ovations, so heckling was a surprise almost as extra large as the expletives thrown at his second
With seeming aplomb and appropriate rhetoric prepared for just such an occasion, Big Daddy, a
practiced magician, commanded the ice cubes vanish amidst the yanking and yapping of division, and he got
his standing ovation from the applause of the ever faithful;
was open to him and my back feared nothing.
We were young Dads with like aspirations.
week we smoked peace pipes together.
We swam naked of nights, cool water
on young bodies.
We made art as gifts for one another.
I was young. I trusted as only the young
I was naive and cherries were being plucked a plenty,
No less mine. The ropes were twisted and loose ties come unmoored
No mater the raker. She was so ripe for plucking, she turned my stomach.
In truth anyone could have had her, but why would he
Make a mockery of his own chaste house?
I wretchedly succored, in manly surrender one unworthy?
What's for you, won't
miss you, and he had been for me.
It stings me to this day, and yet, I confess,
he still charms me.
worms feed on her and we are on the menu.
It is all sorted out on the surface.
I am mated properly and happily, and
still in a married bliss that is stable.
The blood cools with time
and with it the duck's blood thickens.
c. E.D. Ridgell, 2015
CLICK ON THE LOWER LEFT ARROW
TO WATCH THE VIDEO
The Robber Barons
First, they moved the noble poplars and the tall pines, stripping the hills in only a generation.
Tempered now in greed, next, they proffered to pitch their
tracks to a greater tender; these barons of the rails; robbers with newly purchased “n” rights. They sent hireling men, many a former logger and lumberjack; the hill men, underground to scout out Salley’s
find; for profits suspected to lie beneath the bruised, and full-bellied Appalachians.
In the passages
dark and dangerous, the shaft-sinkers found seams; black riches beyond greediest expectations. With industry
and speed the company owners, representatives of barons back East. soon had the recently discovered seams yielding rich loads borne out on long tracks. Too few though were tracking the robber barons.
The wheels turned;
whirling in all directions. It was an era when immigrants proved profitable; an agitation invested into this brew
of native, negro, and the new benefited the “Man” and seasoned the company store still more. The rich and slick soon had all in a kind of slavery that incited a wretched worker, often a family man, to strike, temporarily shedding soot stained, hard hats their shiny lamps symbols of that servitude.
Fields strewn with tents soon housed the dispossessed united to work for something fair, anything freer feeling. They never stood a chance. Strike after strike failed and in the end they had to await “Big Bill”
trailing his friendly, “Teddy” bear, both finally checking and tracking the robber barons.
Victory came in an act. Robbery that rude and reviled, successfully railed against was thought to be relegated
by law, put to past.
Point Lookout Hotel Torn Down By The State After Taking The Land For A State Park
the Road’ from Point Lookout!
I went ‘down the road’ alone wanting no living company. I checked out the gravesites at Trinity in St. Mary’s City and those ‘down the road’ at St. Michaels; buried Dad’s old Ronson lighter in the Judge’s chamber and planted tulip bulbs a few feet away in
the recently turned soil of her grave.
I drove down to Point Lookout before going to the house. The Point’s
too changed to care much anymore but I did; I cared a great deal at the desecrations of what had been the best
memories of a childhood not very blessed. We’ve ne’er been folk to lay our resentments down easily. There
are fewer and fewer now who remember the white, clapboard, naval hotel, three stories high, with its long pier,
jutting out over the Potomac, and the small surrounding community of cottages; all bulldozed decades ago making
way for black, asphalt, parking lots and sandy, stucco, bathhouses. It was then they seized the Judge’s
land in the name of a state, we knew more about what parts were wise to waist or waist not. We still do. Those
publican funded outhouses erected in the name of progress were locked that day against the coming winter, their
graffiti covered, fleck painted walls, hissing defiantly back at the pushing winds. It was fittingly chilly even
at high noon on that early November day. Anger was a warm salve for cold, wounded memory.
up into the van, said my goodbye to the ghost made redundant, and headed ‘up the road’ and over the
causeway at a speed I remembered Cotton would have dared and took that curve for a last time and held the road, with
a rebel yell; eight cylinders and gas at three dollars a gallon! Go to Hell! Ten minutes later I was to the monument
for the confederate dead who died in the prison camp that had existed and vanished just ‘down the road’
at the Point long before all that I had just conjured to recollect was built up and then torn down in its turn. History has ne’re respected man-made changes to geography.
I’ve read those bronzed names for so many
decades now in search of some connection, just for the sake of community, but to no avail. They are planted in
a garden too far from home left to our responsibility. The family homestead this last century lies just across the road,
and it is to there I now hesitantly turned to tread with a unfamiliar fear for the future; to the old,
one room, Victorian school-house added on and onto, one room at a time, until it had become a nursing home floating
on cinder blocks settling into sandy soil; shaky pinions but firmly planted with the conviction of an intention to stay.
That stay had now come also, in its turn, to an inevitable end finished with the sign marked ‘sold’
at the end of the drive.
Surprisingly the door was locked. We had ne’er locked doors. I broke a window
pane and entered through that kitchen that held such a cauldron of stirring recollections of family matters played
out to an audience of colored women cooking on black and white enamel stoves under Miss Sophie’s supervision,
her manner intimidating everyone. Even my formidable grandmother was temperate in her own kitchen. I won’t
dwell on the food; paradise lost. I took a sad last tour, through the bedroom where I remembered Mary Allen brushing
my Granny’s hair, unbraided to the floor, and on through to that bedroom where Dad crossed “over the
river to rest under the shade of the trees”. All the rooms had something to say but in the end it was all goodbyes.
The grounds, mercifully, were much changed. The sty was gone, the ghost broken up for it’s cypress, the
chicken houses long ago torn down. I ne’er did know what happened to Dad’s beehives that he started and tended in the cancerous months leading up to his death. Her garden was there, though, so recently tended and
already so quickly grown over. That’s why I planted the tulips for her in anticipation of next spring. My aunt
always looked forward and ne’er back. I must try even now past that halfway buoy to master this.
was done. None of the children cared enough and in truth it was not practical. All of us through the years laid
down roots too far away to stay. It was agreed upon. It was done. All including me were ‘up the road’
and too far away. It was done and gone so quickly. Who wrote, “haste makes waist”?
I drove the
length of the drive and stopped at its end before turning to go ‘up the road’. Stepping down out the
van I scooped up a handful of soil and ‘Little Butch’- ‘Ed, Junior’ put this in his dungaree
pocket, the left backhand pocket reserved in any pants since childhood for such treasures. I have no idea what
I will do with this rich and loamy soil, but it is a physical memento of a family’s ups and downs, it aspirations
and disappointments, its happiest and saddest moments. It holds memories and secrets that will forever go untold.
Just canvas the ghosts of the many dead, naval veterans who still haunt these acres, or if you dare ask Cotton’s
spirit back ‘down the road’ at the causeway curve he finally failed to turn on two wheels, or try to
pry from me all I know. No, it is done. It is that side of history that is lost with every goodbye.
A scholarly sojourn down pedestrian aisles, bordered with slight variations in form and style, and there
it is, one more cold marble slab chiseled with data and dates, shadowed recesses, of a hot Maryland sun.
Under this stood, a lovingly laid out playground of little plastic toys in blanched colors that
would not decay or rot.
Between the neatly combed rows of yellow daffodils stood the many memories,
mementoes beginning with a blue airplane, bordering a purple dinosaur, and in a second row a brown pony, and a pirate’s dagger to pierce the heart.
A little imagination conjures him up to play again, his
fair, sandy hair, now resting below in the dark, unbleached by the Somerset sun.
Death presents the living
with unwanted tests, whims of the fickle fates; doling out check-offs until in the end all are passed.