Tell us all a story

tietyingThis week Nathalie and Baylee from the Adirondack Center for Writing dropped by the station for a working lunch to plan out details of the next season in our live storytelling collaboration, The Howl Story Slam. As the two of them had also acted as hosts and houseparents for the unruly bunch of writers in my recent two-week residency, I had to tell them what a shock it had been to return to the work-a-day world, and to confess that my writing output had now fallen back to its usual glacial pace.

But the banter that day in the station kitchen reminded me of the informal story sessions we held after dinner during the residency, and of a confessional story I told one night. “That should be a poem,” they said. Now it is.

Tie in My Pocket

Among things I learned from my father:
how to shave with a Gillette adjustable razor–
how to tie a necktie.

But by late in the turtleneck ’70s I had lost
the knack of it and stood like a schoolboy
while he tied one for me once again.

Care for one’s dignity also being among
my father’s lessons, I loosened the knot later
and tucked the still-tied tie into my suit coat pocket.

There it stayed in years afterward, ready to deploy
on those few occasions so formal as to require
“the noose” — my father’s funeral among them.

By the ’90s the tie sported a down-at-heels
funkiness, a set of permanent wrinkles
along with a spot impervious to OxyClean.

With reluctance I consigned it to the bin
and soldiered on toward the millennium by
tie-defying recourse to round-collar shirts,

which left me ill-prepared in late 2000 when
I suspected the guise of male respectability
might be to my advantage in a job interview.

Fatherless now, nearing fifty, too shamed to solicit
peer support, I went to
and downloaded pictograms from tietying.html.

Printed out and tucked into the pocket of the same
(now vintage) suit coat, they comprise a virtual
stand-in for the discarded family relic.

I still pull this cheat sheet out on requisite occasions
to guide me at the bathroom mirror until the knot
is neat and the narrow end is tucked behind the wide.

Emerging well-kempt, my throat is constricted
in cruel conformity to masculine rites
and by the memory of lessons lost.

OK. Now it’s your turn. Tell us a story in a comment below.

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7 Comments on “Tell us all a story”

  1. Connie says:

    Your poem reminded me of my Mother teaching me scales on the piano which I still use to warm up.

  2. Richard L. Daly says:

    Dale, It appears you ‘said it all’ in your poem. Whenever, in my personal or professional life, others would commend me for an idea, observation, suggestion, or words-of-comfort/consideration, etc., I would reply, ” I had good teachers.” RD

  3. maureen martin says:

    He Had Perfect Ears

    “What was I just saying, dear? Oh yes, he never wore underwear. And he always slept nude–except for that dreadful winter. That’s why we always put a little liquor in the drinking water that winter–just so it wouldn’t freeze.
    “Yes, your grandfather was quite the man. You have his keen eyes and his absolutely perfect ears.
    “He could look at any woman, of any age or station, and awaken her. If she had forgotten her beauty, or the pleasures of her body, he would remind her. Without her even speaking, he could hear her deepest needs–her most shameful desires. Soon she’d be cooing and fluffing her hair–sending perfume off the tips of her fingers, rolling sparks off her tongue, licking at his perfect ears.
    “It is not too much to say, that with a look he could begin a woman’s life. I know this to be true. I was one them.
    “I’ve heard confessions from those who felt compelled to tell me of their affairs with my husband. They hoped if I would forgive them they might be free of their wanting and their shame. As if I had anything to do with their dreaming, or awakening.
    “The prouder ones would try to find reasons to see him. They would hire him to fix something. He was so very skilled with his hands. Others were more honest. They would write, or call, or even send gifts.
    “People have asked me through the years why I didn’t leave him. I didn’t want to be like them, the other women, waiting to feel alive, waiting to see him, or sleep up against him. I knew better than to live in longing. I’d willingly whisper all my secrets to him and he always listened, even in his sleep.”

  4. Fred Schmitt says:

    A short story Poem

    (noiced at a gate in Newark Airport)

    His touch is light –
    firm –
    delicate as if
    holding a wedge-wood
    tea cup –
    her frail arms
    into a sweater
    patiently –
    glancing into each other’s eyes
    with the ever so
    softest smiles.

    I want to imagine
    they are in this moment
    one young summer night
    At the River
    when they’d danced
    for hours,
    drank and laughed
    and danced
    and laughed
    and pulled each other
    into hungry kisses
    along the short walk home
    where they turned over the night stand
    and broke the lamp
    devouring each other
    impatiently –


  5. Rosalie Fontana says:

    Sadly, we seldom realize at the time, how important these small moments are. They gather luster with time, like stones washed smooth by the sea.

  6. Mr. Wakiki says:

    dreams of what could be

    1,000’s of love poems composed
    in lost days of procrastination

    things that were done
    but done after thoughts
    of tenderness and thighs

    in the end, there were the poems with
    images of birds fluttering in my house

    frighten little birds

    and my the facsimile of a poet
    standing in imagined toughness
    and talent in a leather jacket

    finding the beauty in strangeness
    and sweetness distilled from desire

    know the moment must end
    the poem must climax
    and carnal intrigue subside

    so a project can fall
    into a deadline

  7. Mr. Wakiki says:

    even when the son is setting

    behind me or
    hidden around
    a corner

    he is there
    my old man

    i make decisions
    and choices
    not always good
    and not totally bad

    and think about
    what he is thinking

    now that he is gone
    but still influencing
    my actions

    or the lack of doing
    or too much of my being

    i guess the words
    or a look i once felt when
    i made the wrong choice

    will always be there
    slowing me down
    and pushing me on

    whenever i wonder
    if the day is gone

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