On. On. Stop. Stop.

mary
About this poem:
“I was cleaning out some old boxes and found a cassette tape labeled with my grandmother’s name and a date, but had no idea what it was. I slipped it into the machine and switched it on, and heard what was a recording of her eightieth birthday party, during which she both gave and received presents—and there, suddenly present, voices of the living and the dead filled the room, all of us in a simultaneous moment, my relatives in a house in the Dutch countryside in 1988, amidst the noise of city traffic in 2012. The title is borrowed from one of Samuel Beckett’s radio plays, Embers (with its first injunction to turn the radio on).”

On. On. Stop. Stop. 
By Saskia Hamilton

In the old recording of the birthday party,
the voices of the living and the dead
instruct twelve absent friends
on the reliable luxury of gratitude.
The celebrated one hands out presents.
The dead dog barks once. We
take one another’s hands and follow their lead,
past the garden wall, out to the land
still stripped by winter. Those gone
do not usurp those here. We keep
the warning close, the timbre of their voices
mingling with the sounds of traffic
going much faster to its destinations.
Is it the size or the scale of the past
on the small reels of the cassette?
Someone gives her a new pot, which,
she exclaims, is too great a luxury for her.
Someone’s missing who can convert
the currencies. The old treasure
was dropped in the furrows
to await spring, with rings and pennies
and florins and other denominations
from those pockets and fingers.

Why I’m posting this today:
This is not the anniversary of losing my grandmother or my nana. This is a random day of the year for me. But, I was informed yesterday that a child I know lost her grandmother this week. I immediately was reminded of my own losses and how some days it just hits you especially hard. I feel lucky that my grandparents were able to watch me grow older and begin my life as an adult. I feel lucky that one raised me during the year and the other flew to me each summer. I feel lucky that I wear my nanas necklace when I feel strong and I bake my grandmothers peanut butter brownie bars when I feel weak. I feel lucky that I have silliness and loyalty from my fathers mom. I have a seriousness and determination from my mothers mom. I urge you to think of your own roots today, the ones who raised you and thew traits into your bucket. We are compiled of the lives of so many that surround us and the people that once were.

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