Athena Kildegaard

Poet & Teacher

Month: October, 2012

Election Season

I had coffee with Lila yesterday. It was too cold to sit out on her porch so we sat in her living room, a cozy room with a modest chrysanthemum-print couch, a couple narrow arms chairs, and one glider rocker with a matching footrest. This rocker is where Lila sat. Behind her, in the archway between her living room and her dining room, stood a small baby grand piano with framed photographs arranged on the top.

“Do you see that photograph on the right, the one with the plain black frame?” Lila began. “That’s my great grandson. I’ve been thinking about him today and how he never met George McGovern, though I think Tom would have liked McGovern. Why would that be? I don’t rightly know, but that’s the feeling I had. Anyhow, I heard on the radio this morning that young people just aren’t interested in politics these days. Don’t that beat all?”

I admitted that it did.

“I took Tom’s mother campaigning for McGovern. Those were heady days, do you know what I mean by that? We just felt that anything was possible, that the world’s wounds could be healed. That nothing was beyond us.

“Do you think that’s why young people today don’t get involved in politics? Maybe they don’t feel that way, they don’t feel the righteousness that we felt. Of course I wasn’t young then, when McGovern ran for president, but I remember thinking then that everywhere I looked, there was a young person. Someone with a gleam in their eye. Idealists. People who believed that if you stuffed enough envelopes, knocked on enough doors, marched down main street enough times, well then things would change.

“Today I don’t even feel that. Here’s what I was thinking when I was studying Tom’s photograph. If I’ve given up, if I’ve decided there’s no damn use, then why should Tom there stand up and speak out? He’s handsome isn’t he? And he does have a gleam in his eye, I’ll say that for him.

“Did you see that almost two billion dollars have been spent on this campaign? There. That’s why I’ve given up. There’s no you or me in that two billion dollars. Our mailman, he’s a nice enough fellow, stops sometimes to chat when I’m outside, well he can’t even name our Senate candidate. When I asked him why he didn’t know he just said he didn’t care, he didn’t see what the difference was. Money was buying the government anyway.

“And money, is it conservative or liberal?

“So what would it take to get my Tom to stuff envelopes, that’s what I want to know.”

Winter Coming On

I had coffee with Lila the other day. Leaves whispered down in red and gold and because it was just past breakfast, a white moon stood high in the sky. There was a sharpness to the air, a hint of winter heading our way.

“Did I ever tell you about my mother?” Lila asked. “My mother canned anything. Beans, jam, tomato sauce, creamed corn. Once she tried pickled eggs, though I wouldn’t recommend them. About this time very year she’d take a visitor to the basement, to the cold storage, and show off her work: a whole wall, floor to ceiling, of jars lined up on gray pine boards, a whole wall, farther from side to side than a full-grown man could stretch his arms. Don’t that beat all?”

I admitted that it did.

“I guess people are coming around to canning again. It’s about time, is all I have to say. I remember my mother standing over a steaming pot of water, lifting in the jars and then lifting them out again. She used a bent hanger for that. She’d never think of buying something you could just fashion for yourself. And then she’d lean against the counter listening for the ping of the lids when the pressure would let off. I think she took a great deal of pleasure from that sound.

“All summer long she’d gather information about food. If someone said they’d seen wild grapes somewhere, say out on a county road or along a golf course, she’d make a mental note. And then a day or two later she’d gather up whoever was around and off we’d go with buckets to collect the fruit. Wild grapes, elderberries, crabapples. And on the way, if we passed a farm stand where they were selling green beans or corn, she’d buy up a load. I think she must have been up many a late night putting away fruits and vegetables.

“She always grew tomatoes, those Italian kind, that make such juicy, thick sauce. And cucumbers of course, so she could put up pickles and relish. One year she planted a few watermelon. Ooh, they were sweet. And she turned the rind into pickles. Nothing went to waste in my mother’s house. The following February we all joked about the watermelons and how we went two weeks eating watermelon breakfast, lunch, and dinner the summer before. And there we were in February, eating watermelons for lunch and dinner all over again.

“They say you are what you eat. I don’t know what they mean by that, but what I think of is my mother’s cooking. I ate Franklin County: beans, grapes, corn, tomatoes, apples. That makes me Franklin County, doesn’t it?

“Let me tell you: Franklin County is good.

“I’m not saying I’m good, nothing like that. But maybe I’m delicious!”

Thinking about cold weather

My poem “Having Chosen the Near Bank” is in the current issue of Talking Writing. Have fun looking around at this elegant and inspiring webzine!