A Summer Night

Whip–poor–will!  Whip–poor–will! A voice declares. It reaches across time and my remembering stops with the sound as it peacefully echoes back from a silent night of long ago. The summers of my childhood come alive with color as a cup of fiery memories overflows.

Yvonne & Freeda Baker

Yvonne & Freeda Baker

After supper, our family sat on the front porch of our home on Banner Mountain in the Ozark Foothills until time to go to bed.

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Dusk appeared just as the whippoorwills began to sing.  Fireflies flitted about the yard and some of them had the misfortune of getting stuck inside a jar, held by small, sweaty hands.  Jarflies were so noisy that adult voices had to stop sometimes, but the children’s laughter continued and mingled with the noise of the approaching nighttime.

Daddy never said how tired he was or how hard he had worked or how aggravated he had been.  It seemed as though he loved everybody he had ever met, and felt no ill will toward anyone.

And Mama was always unruffled, unhurried, and able to relax as she went about her household duties. The apron she wore has no replicas.

The modern day housewife seldom wears an apron. But her children need to feel the security that I felt on those summer evenings when my family gathered to wait for bedtime –when the dogs lay lazily in a corner of the yard, and chickens were on the roost, the door to the henhouse closed and locked.  Once again the chickens had escaped the whistling hawk that sailed the clear skies overhead. Tomorrow would be another day.  Whip–poor–will!

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© Copyright, Freeda Baker Nichols, all rights reserved.

 

 

The Sea is a Mermaid

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                             THE SEA IS A MERMAID

The sea is a mermaid who keeps tapping, tapping at the door
like the raven in Edgar’s poem who quoted “Nevermore.”*
Water lapping, gently lapping on the banks of Gloucester’s shore.

Many times before, with his crew, Nate had gone down to the sea.
He had always returned to his home and sweetheart, Lora Leigh.
Lora Leigh’s  flaxen hair was ruffled by the late autumn breeze.
Her eyes glistened like dewdrops fallen on pale lilac leaves.

Red clouds gathered slowly that morn across the northwestern sky.
Lora felt the premonition though she prayed it was a lie.
She begged Nate, “Please heed the warning. Promise me you will not go
down to the sea this morning.” And he replied, “Don’t worry so.”

Nate and his crew secured positions aboard Athena Gale.
They waved to their loved ones and then set the swordfish boat to sail.
Lora cried. Her heart beat faster than it ever had before.

Like the raven in Edgar’s poem who quoted “Nevermore,”*
the sea is a mermaid who keeps tapping, tapping at the door.
The Athena Gale and crew returned to Gloucester nevermore.

The force of hurricane winds quickly sank the ship far off shore.
One life raft found unoccupied called to mind each crewman’s name.
Its emptiness told the story with a message all too plain.

The foghorn signaled strongly against the raging tempest’s roar
but fell mute to worn-out fishermen a hundred miles from shore.
The hurricane’s powerful winds thrust high the dangerous waves
that heaved the sailors down to the dark and silent, salt-lined graves.

“What did they  tell the children when each one questioned, ‘Why
did the Athena Gale sink and all the fishermen have to die?'”

Did they tell them Nate and all his crew were predestined to drown?
That it was a Perfect Storm that swept the ship Athena down?
That the sea is a mermaid who keeps tap, tapping at the door?
That she claims the lives of the weakest and the strongest crewmen?

Some go down to the sea in ships and come safely back to shore.
Others go down to the sea in ships and return . . . nevermore.
Water lapping, gently lapping on the banks of Gloucester’s shore.

* Reference to “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

 

© Copyright, Freeda Baker Nichols   (A work in progress. This poem is based on the true account of the Andrea Gail, the fishing vessel and all its crew who were lost at sea in 1991 during a so-called “Perfect Storm.” Names in my poem are fictitious. Other names and fiction have been added. My inspiration to write this poem began with a visit to Gloucester, Massachusetts in 2006. I stayed at the Emerson Inn by the Sea in Rockport, Massachusetts. And I visited Gloucester where I took the pictures of the monuments honoring fishermen and their families. As I sat by the sea, I listened to the lapping water and wrote the first line of this poem. These ten years later, it’s ready to post, but I doubt that it’s finished. I’m posting it now with respect to the memory of the Andrea Gail and her crew.)

 

 

 

Untangled Thread

Mama’s stitches were shorter and
more uniform than those made by
other ladies at the quilting parties.
When the patterned pieces of feed
sack wore thin, Mama’s stitches
held strong as the knots that kept
them in place.

A tablecloth, with faded black letters
across a corner brightened our
kitchen with appliqued red apples that
looked good enough to eat. There was
warmth in the kitchen that came from
somewhere other than the wood-burning
stove.

I cannot untangle my life, the way Mama
untangled twine, but she instilled in me
the determination to try. I sleep under a
machine-made comforter, but the thought
of Mama caring for her family warms me.

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                                                 Mama

© Copyright, Freeda Baker Nichols