The Birdseed Chaff
The hours of the day move slowly now.
Morning mist fogs the vision of yesterday.
Maybe I saw you.
Maybe we talked.
Strength drained away somewhere.
It must be in the tears that well up,
Fall without warning,
Cardboard boxes lie in my path.
Can I get from here to there?
And what’s in that box?
Is it what I lost;
Can I find it again?
My son is here;
One of my sons is here today.
I watch as he gathers the tools;
And I remember the boy I taught
To hold a hammer right.
Hold my hand tight.
Steady me, son.
The birds, I had a lot once
Raised them up to sing.
They’re gone now, their cages still,
I recall their trill.
I smell them, they are close;
Nesting for spring.
Standing, leaning on a truck
Watching my son, listening…
Must do the birdcage chores,
The work day doors;
I hang, close by
We’re going to work now, my son and I.
Shiny, loose in the truck bed,
My hand naturally closes around them;
But not too tight for
They fall through my purple fingers.
I grab another handful of these shiny, sharp…
Their name?...Their name?
Birdseed chaff flies up
From the box dropped down,
Captured by the wind.
We’re working; he marks the box “storage.”
And they stack in neatly, to go…
But I can’t, I don’t have a car today.
How will we get to work this day?
Let’s look again, in the garage.
And I am teaching him to put in a door,
So it opens and closes well.
It opens and closes well.
Tomorrow must be work again.
It will be a good day, it must.
I’m crying again, but I don’t know why.
The doors are all hung.
They swing in.
They swing out.
Lock ‘em up son, sweep up the dust.
We put in forty this week.
I’ve got overtime.
The day is long
And we are strong.
The truck gate shuts,
The food of our lives, the love of our lives…
Standing in the doorway,
My Grandson carries more;
Each measure counts,
It’s all in a finish carpenter’s toolbox,
History on the floor.
“It’s a good day to build stuff, I’m not finished quiet yet.
Got to feed the birds, and have a beer,
Watch a little soccer on the set.”
Considerably yours, Coleene VanTilburg
Thoughtfully, for Johannes.
The inspiration for this poem came from my husband Ted, whose parents are both in the throws of dementia. We moved Dad and Mom closer to us last winter, and my husband shared how his dad watched him loading boxes from the garage. While standing near his tailgate, Dad picked up screws and nails in his hands, Sifting and sorting. I imagined he was thinking of the days these two went to work together, side by side, and that this was just another work day; two men heading off to take care of business. When we unloaded the boxes, birdseed chaff flew out of each one and I could smell the birds, the one's he'd raised and bred as a hobby for so many years.