On Steps of Blue

Susquehanna River

The flood of September 2011 in Pennsylvania and neighboring states entered my childhood home uninvited and very unwelcomed. There was no loss of life, but it made quite a mess and disrupted the lives of people I love. Thirty years of hard work making a house a home were ripped apart overnight. It was heart breaking to see the home my parents had worked so hard on figuratively swept away. The structure still stood, but things would never be the same. The situation forced my parents to answer the question of whether or not to start over but also to wonder if they really had the choice not to.

The clean up was hard and emotionally draining, but there were things that helped me through it – kind words from a friend, the generosity of strangers, the reliability of family, the memories and hopes we all held onto…and the ability to put my feelings into the words of a poem.  A lot of things were thrown away during the cleanup – only material things, but they were carriers of memories nonetheless. As we watched them tossed away, they reminded us of the impermanency of things and of ourselves.

In this childhood home there was a set of stairs that my mother painted an old colonial blue. I remember sitting on them when we first moved in looking out the window into our new yard, wondering what my life would be like there and writing to a friend that I’d left behind.  There were changes made throughout the house over the years and eventually the steps were covered with carpeting. After the flood, part of the clean up involved tearing up this soggy, wet carpet, revealing the blue stairs once again. During a lull in the clean up, I sat down on them to take a quiet moment for myself and thought of a time when I once sat in that very same place so many years ago.

Here are two poems that came out of this experience.  The first is about my connection to the Susquehanna River which I still love despite the havoc it created in my life, the second is about my first and last memories in the house – and positive hopes for the future. This is for my parents who created the best home any child could ever want. I hope they know that where ever they are, that is where home will always be whether there are blue painted stairs to sit on or not.

RIVERRUN

Riverrun
past life and sorrow

memories now adrift
from bend of time
to swerve of tomorrow

calling me home
and taking my home
the river carries on
as it is carried on

in my life
in my blood
in my past
in my future.

(Acknowledgement to James Joyce whose Finnegan’s Wake inspired a few lines and the title of this poem.)

STEPS OF BLUE

On steps of blue
a handful of hours
return to me,
with lonely thoughts of
new beginnings and
things that were left behind.

Sitting on blue steps
presently
time whispers urgently
and my thoughts are flooded
with memories in the making
of forced good-byes
and reluctant beginnings.

Between then and now
steps of blue
one after another
ushered me to this 
place and time
and I fear I’ll continue
taking steps of blue…

But, oh! To dance lightly
on stepping-stones
of red, yellow, green,
breaking the monotony of blue
letting sound and colors carry me
to a place not of the past,
and not of the future.

Only then do steps of blue
seem sky-like, only needing
the whites of clouds,
and leading upward
to the here and now – 
to the place of today,
free of yesterdays and tomorrows. 

(Thank you to friends who supported me during that hard time.)

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26 Responses to On Steps of Blue

  1. midnighthues says:

    Awesome!!!!!!!! Love it!!

  2. midnighthues says:

    Captured all your memories and emotions well.

  3. I especially like your Steps of Blue prose.
    I hope too your parents and you are okay again.

  4. magsx2 says:

    Hi,
    Floods can be so devastating, we have a lot of floods here in Australia every year in the rainy season, so many people lose everything it is just heart breaking for so many family’s.

    I love your poems, very beautiful the way you have written them.

  5. The River has given your spirit a moment of reflection. It only does what it always has…

  6. J.B. O'Shea says:

    Beautiful, sad, yet encouraging reflection. I admire your perseverance, especially having been there myself.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for these poems and their impetus story. I recently said goodbye to my childhood home in New Jersey. My mother was there for 37 years. It is a difficult passage, but how fortunate that we had these roots for as long as we did. Your blue steps becoming other colors reminds me of a technique used in trance induction, where we sometimes step down the colors or float through the colors into a trance state of consciousness. The first trance I did after saying goodbye to 112 King George I was thrilled to find myself beginning the trance through the front hallway of this home, the front door, such a distinctive wooden door, was my entrance to those induction steps. There is space that is not of the past and not of the future and I’m certain your childhood home will always be there, ready to say hello again when you least expect it.

  8. Subhan Zein says:

    When I saw the painting and read these poems, I felt inner peace, Well done! :-)

  9. Excellent verses, especially Riverrun. In a few words, you captured beauty, disaster and subtle paradox. I’ve also loved many rivers here and there, and I tend to feel happiest near moving water. I don’t connect them to home (my life has been too nomadic) but I always seek them out, and sit by them, and camp next to them when I can.

    When the Susquehanna flooded, there was a lot of trouble up in NY too. The southern tier had it worse, but even as far up as the finger lakes there was flooding and loss. But there was also friendship, and people reaching out, and strangers helping strangers, and I guess those are the moments that give some meaning to tragedy.

    • Thank you. Do you read Joyce? Looking back at what I wrote, I think Finnegans Wake influenced the Riverrun poem in more ways than I realized when I said “it inspired a few lines and the title.” Funny that I can see this now after I’ve stepped back from it a little.
      I live in the Finger Lakes area. Are you in NY?

      • I’ve only read Portrait of the Artist, which was great, and I have a hc copy of Finnegan’s that I got for a dollar at a really weird garage sale. I crack it open and read random pages once in a while, but I haven’t tried really reading it yet. And yup, I’m in upstate NY :) been here for about two years, which is the longest I’ve been in one place since hmmm 2003.

        • I think a lot of people read Finnegans Wake that way. :) I’m foolish enough to be trying to work my way through the whole thing. (And having a blast, I might add!) You must like NY then? I can’t imagine living anywhere else – the lakes, the waterfalls… (I live in Watkins Glen.) I’m the complete opposite of you. I tend to put down roots. :) But I do think it would be nice to travel more.

  10. Francina says:

    excellent expressed. The Susquehanna River is indeed beautiful too.

    Ciao,
    Francina

  11. jamieaaron03 says:

    nice poems, i think i’d have a melt down if that happened to my house

  12. Unsungpoet says:

    This is such a moving sentiment and tribute to your parents… and childhood home. It’s so true about letting go of material belongings; necessary, yes, but so hard to because they do indeed harbor so many memories and literally energy from those times that they represent…But we’ll all eventually have to let go of so much more. I appreciate your respect for the natural power and grace of the river, despite the havoc and difficulty it’s caused…

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