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Poem: "Imperfect Light" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Imperfect Light"

This poem came out of the October 18, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl -- a bonus session featuring Monster House.  It was inspired by a prompt from aldersprig.  It was sponsored by janetmiles.  This poem explores the character of the little old lady ghost, and it includes quotes from the excellent book The Grandmother Principles.


Imperfect Light


Ghosts, they say, stick around
because of unfinished business.

The little old lady ghost
had lived with me for a while
before she even revealed herself,
and never seemed particularly restless,
though I've seen her son's ghost too.
For a while I thought that might be why,
but it didn't quite seem to fit.
I watched her move through our lives,
and gradually the pieces began to come together.

Ghosts have a peculiar kind of tenure
because they have already died
and do not tend to change.
They are figments of history,
keepers of tradition beyond living memory.
We see in them what once was,
in case we need it again.

     Grandmothers already have tenure.

The little old lady ghost
goes about her unlife quietly,
doing the little things that
help to make a house a home.
She closes the windows when it rains,
turns down the stove so things don't boil over.
She keeps us company, rocking in her chair,
and listens when someone needs to cry.
She shows us how to take care of each other.

     The most powerful way to teach is by example.

To see a ghost is to be reminded
of both life and death,
for all things are fleeting
except for love.
In this realization lies the strength
to keep going onward.

     Everything comes to an end eventually.

The little old lady ghost
is not speechless, but
neither is she given to speaking.
She knows that some things go unsaid
and that companionship
does not necessarily require conversation.
Her silence says more than some people's speech.

     There are secret stories that only grandmothers should know.

In a world filled with rush and hurry,
bustle and business,
she takes things slowly.
She has nothing that must  be done
this very instant,
and all the time in the world
to do it in.

     It will be finished when it's finished.

Ghosts may not live, exactly,
but they tend to live in the moment.
They do not worry too much
about what was or will be,
beyond a desire to attend unfinished business.
Some of them are content just to exist,
and some are troublesome
just as some live people are, but then
there are those ghosts who dream in deep time.
The ones who can think ahead
think of the far, far future
knowing that they will be here to greet it.

     Grandmothers plan for the long haul.

The little old lady ghost comes from a time
when people tended to be more polite.
She has no patience with our daughter's whining;
you can see her hands on her hips
and her transparent foot tapping.
When my wife and I argue, sooner or later
she appears, her stern stare admonishing us
to kiss and make up.

     Somebody has to be the grown-up.

You might not think of ghosts
having much in the way of influence --
it takes energy for them to move things around
or even just to appear --
but think again.  Think how quickly
live people respond
to a glimpse, a shiver,
an ephemeral footstep on the stair.

     People with real clout don't have to throw their weight around.

No matter how hectic life gets
in this house, the little old lady ghost
remains calm.  She is always there,
a serene presence as still
and powerful as the eye of a storm.
She is the rock we lean against
when we feel shaky.
I guess once you've faced death,
lesser emergencies just don't seem
very scary anymore.

     No sickness or injury is so bad that panic can't make it a lot worse.

It wasn't until I found the book in our local bookstore
that I really understood.  We've Got It Covered 
carries a great many small-press titles,
and The Grandmother Principles
caught my eye.  Flipping it over,
I read the list of principles on the back,
and realized what the little old lady ghost
has been teaching us all along
and why she has stayed.

She must have seen the world changing,
people beginning to pull away from each other,
information eclipsing wisdom and
making a living taking the place of living a life.
This is what she has decided to do about it,
taking care of the part of the world in her reach,
however awkward or difficult it is to do,
and however imperfectly suited the tools to the task.
Whenever I see her softly shining form,
I am reminded how much we see by her enlightenment.

     For grandmothers, the light doesn't have to be perfect.

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9 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: December 17th, 2011 02:14 am (UTC) (Link)
I know it's based on one of her books, but this is *such* an ozarque poem; I was reminded of her from the first italicized line.

I miss her presence on LJ, and don't feel I know her well enough to impose on her with a holiday card.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 17th, 2011 02:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

It really is. ozarque codified a lot of family beliefs that I share.

I miss her too. She'd probably like a holiday card, though. Most writers enjoy hearing from people whose lives they've touched.
laffingkat From: laffingkat Date: December 17th, 2011 03:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I really like this. I've always believed in leading/teaching by example, and I'm charmed at what a fine example you offer us with this poem about the little old lady ghost. I'll have to track down a copy of ozarque's book as well.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 17th, 2011 03:27 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

That's good to hear.

I think this is one of the poems that really carries the "family feel" of the Monster House series.

Also, The Grandmother Principles is one of the best books I've ever found on family dynamics. It's basically an instruction book on how to be an effective grandmother (including variations for different flavors of grandmother) and I think it should be handed out with each firstborn grandchild. But a fair amount of the principle work for more than just grandmothers.
filkferengi From: filkferengi Date: December 20th, 2011 03:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
My sister-in-law has a new step-grandbaby. I've just had this book sent to her, & it's *all your fault*. Thanks!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 20th, 2011 04:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

That makes me happy. Congratulations on the new family member.
filkferengi From: filkferengi Date: December 20th, 2011 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

Thanks!
aubergine_pilot From: aubergine_pilot Date: September 21st, 2012 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
And her son died, in one war or another, and... oh. Oh. I get the feeling you get "YOU MADE ME CRY AT WORK! THANK YOU" a lot, but. Well.

YOU MADE ME TEAR UP AT WORK. THANK YOU.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 22nd, 2012 01:28 am (UTC) (Link)

You're welcome!

>>And her son died, in one war or another, and... oh. Oh.<<

Sooth. If you can't lower the price, raise the profit.

>> I get the feeling you get "YOU MADE ME CRY AT WORK! THANK YOU" a lot, but. Well.

YOU MADE ME TEAR UP AT WORK. THANK YOU. <<

Well, not a lot. Each time is still special and I really appreciate hearing about it. That helps me learn what works for my audience so that I can do more of it. Tears and neon hearts and all. *hugs*
9 comments or Leave a comment