A Poem and a Few Words

I don’t put a lot of my own writing on here, even though it’s a blog about writing, because many places consider works posted online to be previously published, thus making them ineligible for publication, unless the place in question takes reprints (usually at a lower pay). It’s a bit of a catch-22: share work and most places will no longer take it or don’t share it and it’s not helping you build a fanbase or giving people a look at what you actually do, think, and feel. I know artists with similar problems: sell your paintings and you don’t have them for your portfolio; don’t sell your paintings and you’re fighting over an old package of ramen noodles with the feral cat in the alleyway.

Thus, I have only shared works I have no immediate intentions of sending to short story or poetry markets. However, I recently wrote a poem about my grandfather, who has been in ailing health for some time. I wrote the poem earlier this week and my grandfather passed away this evening (I was fortunate enough to have written it just in time for him to hear).

Since this is a personal poem, I did not write it for any market and don’t feel the need to go chasing after one just to see it in print. I wrote this poem for my family, to help them cope in a difficult time. As the loss of a family member is something many of us experience, I thought I would share this one in case it might speak to anyone else going through (or who has gone through) a similar loss. My grandfather was a man of few words, so I’ll stop rambling and let this poem speak for itself.

GRANDFATHER WILLOW
by Shannon Barnsley

He was a quiet man
I think we had one one-on-one conversation in my life
But he was always there
A calm, quiet presence
Taking the cards he was dealt, seemingly without thought
And somehow winning anyhow
Still waters run deep as old roots

A proud grandfather beaming in an old picture
Surrounded by grandchildren
With stick legs and ganglier limbs than they remember
A surprise reunion
Everyone anxious, excited
Busy with sapling youngsters or well-pruned plans
Except him
He was simply content
A willow chill as the waters that fed its roots
Barely noticing the ebb and flow around it
Happy to go along or stand firm

That’s how I always picture him
A grandfather surrounded by family
In little pink hats and Goosebumps t-shirts
An event to mark his birthday
All the growing branches together
Reaching out skywards to new patches of sun
Or interwoven in a dense tangle of lives
And generations of sprite-like sprouts underfoot

We grew in the shade of steady willows
Often quiet but always there
And he always will be
Our Grandfather Willow
Because trees never die
They just grow new branches
Their children and grandchildren carried on far winds
Blooming in forests and fields and city parks
Pictures fading in sunlight
As a new generation drinks it in
Growing strong on light and love
And the dawns of new days
As they hum a treesong
For Grandfather Willow

I don't have the actual pictures referenced in this poem on this computer, which is a shame because there's one of us grandkids in front of the Redwood trees, but this is a picture of me in a tree by the Grand Canyon from a family reunion, circa 2007.

I don’t have the actual pictures referenced in this poem on this computer, which is a shame because there’s one of us grandkids in front of the Redwood trees, but this is a picture of me in a tree by the Grand Canyon from a family reunion, circa 2007.

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4 thoughts on “A Poem and a Few Words

  1. Erica Judd says:

    I’m sorry to hear of your loss. It’s a beautiful memorial you’ve written for him.

    Like

  2. Dear Shannon,
    Your sweet and sensitive poem truly touched the heart of your Grandfather when I read it to him. It later touched the hearts of those that loved him, when you read it aloud at his Memorial Dinner. Thank you from us all.

    Like

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