SWEDISH TAILORS ON TABLE TOP
There could have been any number
of reasons why four tailors from
Stockholm sat cross-legged upon a
sturdy table in an old Victorian
house in Santa Barbara early in the
twentieth century, early in my
His grandfather John Ostin was chief
among the tailors, his stout body
heavily pressing one end of the table
top. A small wool suit jacket hung
off the table edge as he hand-stitched
a final hem. I doubt it was for lack
of chairs. Perhaps they sat closer to
the ceiling light. Stitching dark thread
into dark fabric is a challenge.
Each immigrant man had sponsored
immigration to America for the next.
Now, the four sat back-to-back
engrossed in their craft.
Years later, my father would fret
that he had not kept the dark woolen
suit made by his grandfather when he
was twelve years old.
My father’s wooden desk on Spanish tile
was near the motel lobby—night auditing,
calls in and out. He counted the money
next to the fireplace mantel where hung a
Marlin caught off some coast, here or there.
He made a spell-check phone call to me
one night between registering guests in
and out. “Hi Dad, and yes, the word for a
story is spelled t-a-l-e, but an animal’s
behind has a t-a-i-l. You’re welcome. You’ll
be home in time for dinner? No? Oh well,
If I didn’t see him before pajamas, I would
see him the next day after grammar school
at the motel coffee shop, where always a
donut, small milk glass and Dad would be
waiting. I sat on a swivel chair under a
fresco of a vaquero, a vineyard, winepress
and a full-bosomed Spanish señora, a basket
of fruit under her arm.
“Dad, does the place grow on you?”
“What? I live here instead of with you,
Kiddo. What do you think?”
HE KNEW ME WHEN I WAS YOUNG
I. He knew me when I was young
at two and three and five, and a teen,
and when I was twenty at my wedding.
He knew me always. He was always with
me, but not today.
I drove him to the doctor, then to a little café—
difficulty thrown in and out of someone’s car;
weather gathering darkness around us—
between us. Who is this limping man in
flaky skin? Is the slip-of-his-mind exactly
like the parking-lot reflection of him against
the car sliding ominously along the shiny
brown paint… and away?
II. So I know now that I have lost him,
but who have I gained? I have someone here
in my care; he looks like Santa Claus, but not
so jovial this time of year, or this time of life,
or this time…
A madman yells to be heard, that’s all. He wants
to be heard by any passerby. The Salvation Army
bell ringer knows this as she rings her little bell.
And so, Santa Claus yells out something about
pirates and knives. Santa Claus is now a madman,
and we are alone on the sidewalk, his walker
tipping to the curb. I do believe in angels; my
father was one once.
III. Another came out of nowhere.
How is it that this very tall man is now helping
get my father back into our car? Where did he
come from, this man who quickly said his father
had dementia, gave my father a lift up with
his arm… then disappeared.
(prev. pub. in Song of the San Joaquin, 2013)
FATHER, FLOATING ON A COUCH CLOUD…
in his dementia, looks down,
and seeing the tiny carpet people
below, declares that they are
too busy to notice his face
looming large above them.
Not an elephant-in-the-room,
but rather a flaky-skinned cherub
with large green eyes, I name him
Later in the afternoon, after
he has rolled himself off his couch,
I cover him with a tapestry of
Christmas elves and leave him
nestled among the many tiny
(prev. pub. in GRIST Anthology 2013)
—Medusa, with thanks to Carol Louise Moon for today’s fine poems!
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