Somewhere along the way one of us
had the idea to record his stories,
there were many we had him tell again
so we would have them on the tape.

There is much to be told from a life spanning
most of the last century, so much that has
happened, so much changed. It was not
the world events that held our attention.

He told of seeing dirigibles over their fields,
a biplane with a torn wing landing on the dirt
road, siblings who never made it to adulthood,
the joy of one toy and fresh fruit at Christmas.

Tales included foreign things such as cabbage
soup and a father working out of town for months
on end, a school with no books and no attendance
requirement when the harvest came in.

We heard of radio programs listened
to by candlelight and homemade clothes
you would wash by hand, the fascination of a first car
and the miracle of electricity and plumbing inside a home.

He paused for a while when we asked about the war,
studied his hands, sat a little taller, before pinning
us with a look we had not seen before. I will tell you,
he said, because I think you should know,

about what it is like to go to war. But, first, turn that
thing off. There are memories I do not wish recorded.
We obeyed, of course, and listened with rapt attention
to every word, felt every fear and shared every shed tear.

Each of us wrote down all we could remember
and later compared our notes,
because there are some things unrecorded
which should never be forgotten.


for the image prompt at Magpie Tales


Filed under Poetry

12 responses to “Recordings

  1. Helen

    … this is overwhelming and so beautifully composed.

  2. This one brought a lump to my throat – beautifully written, and so valid: we mustn’t let those memories disappear.

  3. Beautifully written and quite moving.

  4. Your last two lines say it all…

  5. My dear NY father-in-law recorded four cassettes before he passed, sharing stories like being at Roosevelt Field (the airport, not the mall) on Long Island, as toddler sitting on his own father’s shoulders and watching as Lindberg took off on his historic flight. We also learned of some of the horrors that had given him nightmares for decades after WWII. He was a navy man, and he and his crew were responsible for retrieving the fallen, or parts thereof(excuse the bluntness) for identification. I’ve heard of that cabbage soup and beans and rice and anything that would make a meal. Thank you for sharing this—you are so right! We need to listen, write, record and remember, and honor their stories and memories in our hearts.

  6. Hmm. Ill admit to scanning the first part…then i hit that ending. Stopped me dead in my tracks and I had to reread. Excellent poetry

  7. I love to hear the stories of the past. Another time, another place almost like a whole different world.

  8. Nice use of the prompt. Nice use of technology.

  9. I liked the last stanza in particular – the realisation of so much left unsaid and the tragedy of that.

  10. Oh, Mark, this was so intimate and so true. Very few men liked talking about the war. Some dads were seen as distant… and yet they, too, had PTSD. Since my dad never held a gun (he was a Sea Bee, construction battalion), he told stories freely…but he also knew of others who paid an awful debt.

    The recordings I have of my dad are all poetry and stories, especially Rudyard Kipling. He was not a “fascinating” reader, but his voice held steady and he could recite full poems of Kipling and Service by heart… poems that went on for pages!

    Thanks for sharing your dad with us. I loved this whole piece, especially when he said, Shut that thing off. Very father-ish comment. Amy

  11. Very beautiful and a moving write for this Magpie prompt.

  12. Tess Kincaid

    Poignant memories..,beautifully conveyed…

Some of what I write is true, some is fiction; most is merely possibility.

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