|Jan/Feb 2018 Poetry|
Textile Photo Art by Jeffrey Trespel
Burr Tillstrom, Master Puppeteer
Presumptuous, perhaps, to fear
he might be forgotten,
man of many voices;
Kukla's falsetto, Ollie's baritone,
Beulah Witch's caw,
the fluting diva tones of Mme. Oglepuss.
And more; Fletcher, the rabbit postman's
Midwestern nasal twang,
subdued gentility of Olivia,
Ollie's mother, always in hat and pearls.
A troupe of one, he gave tender life
to cloth and reshaped remnants,
each creation vivid, complex
in itself, he could be, in fact, forgotten
while they, finger tips away,
carried on their lives:
Kukla, the gentle, reasonable one,
Ollie, ebullient, temperamental,
Beulah, unfettered spirit,
Fletcher, nervous, edgy, as befits
a rabbit with responsibilities.
And what of Fran, the one visible
human presence, friend, confidant,
singing partner, improvising
conversation, never out of step?
As needed, as welcome as reader
to poet, imagination's playmate,
the childhood friend who understands
how the game is played.
On front steps, front rooms,
vacant lots, backyards,
I learned something from each of them:
from Mrs. Law,
the design outlined
on a linen cloth
could be transformed,
back-stitch, cross-stitch, lazy daisy,
to a garden made of colored silk.
Mrs. Allen resolved for me
the puzzle of telling time,
put to rest my confusion
rising from the view
that the minute hand
was longer than the one
that marked the hours.
Logic, her guidance showed me,
need not always apply.
Ruthie, from across the street,
taught me the elements of knitting,
casting on, that the conversant
back-and-forth of needles
could end in something like
And Madalyne, one year older,
my guide through many ways,
told me the name of a wildflower
all but hidden under weeds,
"Star-of-Bethlehem," she said
and I had no reason to doubt
any more than I questioned
her knowing allusions
to Confession, Processions,
First Communion or the choice
of a Saint's name added to her own.
I took in this knowledge
along with jump-rope
and ball-bouncing rhymes
she brought home from her school-yard
behind St. Andrew's church.
Put it down to distraction
that my skills as a knitter
the tea towel scene
or that my understanding of time
hours absorbed by a book,
in talk, in chosen work
minutes spent waiting
What was it then
that held me there,
watching, listening, learning
what they taught?
Their attention, I believe,
attention fully given, kindest,
simplest of offerings, made visible
in a strand of yarn, of colored thread,
the patient voice,
a wildflower called by its name.