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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, January 2024
Expectations, poems by Peter A. Witt.
Winter arrived, unpacked its undressed trees,
waters that slowed to an iced tea trickle,
sun that slept late and went to bed early,
harvest moon that had completed its job,
now a memory of witches riding brooms
across its surface. We settled in for weeks
of log laying, kernels that popped
with a buttery rhythm, holidays celebrated
with family, few of whom could remember
their meaning, snows that filled the yard
with carrot-eyed statues, and a groundhog
that despised its shadow.
We looked forward to snowdrops,
robins, and waxwings, all harbingers
that warmer days, gentle rains, baby
rabbits, and softer skies were ahead.
All this we could count on year-by-year,
written only in our expectations, played
out with joy, wisdom, and wonder.
Confessions of a windy childhood
At ten years old I slept alone
in a bedroom at the back of our house,
a U-shape away from my brothers, many
misunderstandings away from my parents,
I awoke most nights afraid the slightest
wind would topple a backyard poplar tree
despite it having expansive roots
wider and deeper than the tenacles
of love that failed to navigate the
hallways of my childhood home.
My mother’s mother was cold, passing
the temperature onto her daughter,
who knew not how to warm
to her children, how to remark
positively about the little things
that help create bonds and feelings
of safety, leaving me to feel
that at any minute, in the dark of night,
a poplar tree might shatter the roof
and leave me injured or worse.
A psychologist suggested my parents
remove the tree to placate my fears,
he never suggested my mother
tussle my hair, or praise my grades,
or honor my high school track medal,
he explained to me my mother
would probably never change,
that it was up to me to self-love,
forgive, and learn to love others
in a way I’d never been.
Years later, my mother has passed,
through the love of a patient wife,
I’ve learned to appreciate the sway
of rooted trees in Texas storms
and have forgiven my grandmother
and my mother.
Soon my time will come to say goodbye
A drum role played the day I was born,
flock of robins sat on the windowsill
chirping their greetings, as the sun
cast sheltered light through cloud
wisps that hung like cotton candy
over our temporary South Carolina home.
My second day was filled with oohs and aahs
of grandparents, each pleased to see
in my eyes someone they recognized.
My mother held me close, offering
the gift of warmth as I suckled
at her breast, father held me too,
telling me about his beloved Dodgers,
how we’d go hiking together, while promising
in the months ahead he’d make the world safe
so I’d never have to endure his days
to come in Ardennes Forest foxholes,
cold and desperate to get home,
where he’d sleep with nightmares
of enemy fire that would tear apart
the trees and leave his company
decimated and shell-shocked.
After three days we went to our
temporary home, mother, father, and me,
where I would grow inches and pounds
recorded in a baby book safely kept
to this day in a box of remembrances,
a lock of my hair tucked inside, along
with a list of gifts I received for my birthday
and Christmas each year until
my parents moved onto thinking
about three other newborns who arrived
regularly four years apart.
I’m in my ninth decade now, the past
is jumbled with the present,
the future shorter than it used to be,
the Dodgers have once again flunked
out of the playoffs, my father’s ashes
absorb each defeat, my mother
preceding him to a spot under
a long lived olive tree. Robins
sometimes sit on my windowsill
listening to the drumroll of my daily life.
© Peter A. Witt
Peter A. Witt is a Texas Poet and a retired university professor. He also writes family history with a book about his aunt published by the Texas A&M Press. Peter’s poetry deals with personal experiences, both real and imagined. His poetry has been published on various sites including Fleas on the Dog, Inspired, Open Skies Quarterly, Medusa;s Kitchen, Active Muse, New Verse News, and WryTimes.