once upon a time

mama and fiddle
I don’t have much to say tonight (a rarity), but I feel compelled to post this publicity photo of my mother, Jeanne Frances Mitchell. I have no idea when it was taken, who took it, which violin it is and why she’s assuming such an artfully monocular pose. Perhaps the photographer doubled as an opthamologist, and she was taking an eye exam. (HE: “Okay, so put the violin over your left eye, now, and read the fourth line.” SHE: “L . . . F — no wait, P! . . . E. . . “)

Otherwise, I just look at this photo and think: Holy shit, Mama was gorgeous. I mean, I knew this already, I’ve known it my whole life, but I’m reminded of it every time I run across some new-to-me old pic from the distant past. I found this one last night while rummaging through a box of my sister’s papers, which includes family documents and ephemera that I forgot about or, in this case, did not know exist.

Its pleasing aesthetic worth offsets one of the other items I discovered: a terrible, terrible poem that I wrote at God knows what age and that my sister saved for God knows what reason. (Was she planning to blackmail me some day?) She also saved one of the better poems I wrote, a four-page bit of comic verse that I gave to her as a Christmas present one year, so I suppose I should forgive her for saving this sad and smelly piece of caca, too. It’s called “Lost in the Corridors of Forever” (WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?) and it opens thusly:

Once upon a time,
I see, there was and is a place
Where I see myself right now and then
Among the willows, vines and roses,
Searching for tomorrow.

First of all: there is nooooo need for a coma after “see.” Typing that caused me excruciating psychic and physical pain. Secondly: “Once upon a time”? Thirdly: This poem is shit! Shit shit shit shit shit! I don’t care that it’s old enough to classify as juvenilia, and that the handwriting looks all loopy and florid and possibly of junior-high origin; I’m making no excuses. I don’t care how young I was when I wrote it. It’s shit. You know how the name of my blog and related book (obligatory link here) is “Figuring Shit Out”? Well, this here is not worth any sort of figuring at all. This is deserving only of a nice, assertive flush with a melodramatic flourish of the hand.

I’m only going to plague you with one more stanza. But be warned. It’s even worse.

Once upon a time,
I hear the birds whose song has died,
The owls mournful coo, and the wolf
serenading the moon,
Amidst a timeless quest for endings.

I told you it was worse.   This time, typing “owls” without the possessive apostrophe caused me excruciating psychic and physical pain. Typing the WHOLE BIT caused me excruciating psychic and physical pain. And so, instead of doing the logical thing and amy with bracestorching it on a ceremonial bonfire alongside that horrific photo of myself with crooked hair and squinting eyes and a brilliantly ugly polo shirt with horizontal stripes, I’ve instead decided to share the worst bits of this dreadful poesy AND re-post said horrific photo righty-herey in this very public forum. Looking at it now, I’m thinking I was probably around that crooked-hair stage of life when I wrote the damn poem.

Well. I tried. And I grew a bit. With both the hair and the writing. Both are less crooked now.

I close with an apology, because I said up top that I didn’t have much to say tonight — and then I wound up talking about this. So let there be order in the universe. Let us all scroll above and feast our eyes on that beautiful lady that I was blessed to call my mom, and then let’s call it a day before I type out another stanza starts with “Once upon a time. . . ”





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