Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Poetry Leaves a Legacy

Journal entries are not the only way to record memoirs. Leave a family legacy for your children and children's children through poetry. It's more creative, more engaging and leaves behind a work of art that exemplifies your family for generations to come. Lord willing.

Here's an example. In my book of Chicago poems, "Swimmer's Prayer," I wrote a poem about my stepfather John. He worked for city government and oversaw operations regarding the Chicago River and bridgetender units. He was the one who came up with the method of dying the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day in the early 1960s. Since then, Chicago bears an emerald river every St. Patrick's Day and several others cities have adopted the custom using the same water-soluble non-toxic dye stepdaddy John got his hands on way back when.

The story is certainly one that family members can pass along, but they can also refer to "The Leprechaun from Blue Island Avenue," which tells the story through poetry. Here's an excerpt:
"Who else could it have been
to send out the speedboats
like crazed blenders
into the Chicago River
dumping bags of orange crystals
that exploded into its other,
churning up a new wardrobe
for the clang, clang,
workingman's river,
until now, clad in railroad overalls,
the river that found itself
wearing one, long Leprechaun sleeve
in time for the parade."
(Missing Spoke Press, 1999)

By the way, although stepdaddy John was a leprechaun at heart, he stood six feet tall. ◦


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