In the center of our yard a flower bed grew,
a garden of beauty brought fully into view,
and in the center of the plot a pole was planted,
straight and true and never slanted
until the iron rusted after dad had died.

As a boy, I tried to shinny skyward to the top
of the flagpole that marked our place. A space
where Old Glory’s banner proudly flew, a wave
of red and white and blue unfurled and true
to mark a sailor’s port and an immigrant’s station;

a symbol of a valiant nation honored in its way.
Today the pole is gone. Fallen by rusts’s voracious
appetite. The naturalized citizen who saluted in reverence
to the land of his preference has been laid to rest.
The proud chest of the sailor rises and falls no more

his ship moored in its silent shore, his dutiful chore
is done. The memory of these people and places
is etched, their faces tattooed on hearts and minds that
held them dear. All that remains here is this banner aloft
crisp and clean, flown to keep their memories alive!

(C) Walter J. Wojtanik, 2015

A Memorial Day and childhood memory written to Poetic Asides Prompt #306 – Childhood


John has passed.
He has breathed his last labored breath
and he lies in death as he had in life.
Close to his wife, daughters at hand
and grandchildren held in loving embrace.
His face is gaunt, ashen and the fashion
of passing was a complete surrender,
white flag aloft in defiant splendor.
John has found his peace, a niche
in God’s little corner of heaven.
He had given all he could and would
give more if it was allowed him.
But now, we stand without him
holding him within and cherishing
each tender moment, every memory
that has us rapt in laughter, cringing
in pain, tearful in sadness that paints
our grief. The gruff old man can finally
stand once again, impatiently waiting
at Heaven’s gate tapping his watch.
“This joint should have opened
an hour ago!’ we can hear his lament.
John has been sent to ready our way;
our eventual reunion in splendor.
It has rendered us sorrowful, but
he has shown us that we have nothing
to fear in death. Live until your final breath!

(C) Walter J. Wojtanik, 2014


His suffering is almost over.
The pains are managed, and a body
ravaged by illness and disease lays
sedated; at rest. At best, we all say our good byes,
and grieve in our ways as he stays
on an even keel. Maybe he feels us near,
for we remain here. Maybe he remains
unaware and unresponsive. But he has
lived as he had loved and that transcends,
it mends the fences broken by the years
of stubborn indignation. Now under sedation
we sit with him, his spirit carried high within
each of us. We trust that he feels the love.
Rising above all else to where he can rest.
At his best, going out on a high note!

(C) Walter J. Wojtanik, 2014


John no longer speaks.
His noises are weak, guttural.
Not quite groans or moans;
incoherent exhalations
of breath held in waiting.
Debating whether this one
would be his last, or followed
by yet another exasperated swell.

John is unaware.
He does not care who fills his room.
The gloom is mocked by the trappings
of a Christmas in suspension.
The tension no longer affects him.
The soft stroke of a comforting hand
is an irritant allowed to be,
he no longer has the words to speak.

John does not see.
Eyes closed to the world around him,
darkness has found him and covers
him like a shroud. His expression
is grotesque. Mouth disfigured,
a gaping maw twisted,
hands tightly fisted and he no longer
has the fight in him to use them.

John is unresponsive.
Recognition is a condition long vacated,
we have waited in silent vigil, sentinels
to the oncoming barrage, his last stand.
John demands nothing, he knows nothing,
he feels nothing but an existence
that had abandoned him long ago.
He shows signs of distress.

John does not find comfort.
A silent wish to go home for Christmas,
not the four walls he once ruled
but a place where pain is eased,
where his eyes see the Wonder,
where under an azure sky he rests
in eternal vigil; the peace he seeks.
John no longer speaks.

© Walter J Wojtanik, 2014


The women folk are distraught; they’re crying
for a man knocking on the door.
Their tears fall as John lays dying.

It seems that we’ve been here before,
another Christmas time in grief
for a man knocking on the door.

Death comes stealing like a thief,
taking what he wants from life,
another Christmas time in grief.

A hard man to figure; a husband, father to my wife,
a grandfather held in the embrace of love
taking what he wants from life.

A fervent prayer to Him above
wanting to ease his suffering, end his pain.
A grandfather held in the embrace of love

and I stand vigil at this time again!
The women folk are distraught; they’re crying,
wanting to ease his suffering, end his pain.
Our tears fall as John lays dying.


(C) Walter J. Wojtanik, 2014


Another parent waiting
death takes its hurried time
and I’m too used to its deceit.
It waits to greet us when the holidays near,
as it has twice before. No more,
“Home for the holidays”, no more
“I’ll be home for Christmas”. Only
requiem in red and green. It has gotten
to be quite mean. I lied. I can wait for
Christmas. But it won’t wait for me!
(C) Walter J. Wojtanik, 2014

one son’s shine

a father’s pride and joy,
learned in woods, compliant in his words.
the skill witnessed in one; the other
missed, though blessed by the verses he wove.

the final exhale came at his death
and his name, the last bequeath to the boy
left to find his own way in that same name,
a glowing example of all that love

can do to nurture long connected souls.
his goal now to shine until his last breath
in homage to the Dad long passed,
seated in silent vigil from his lofty place above.

a sailor Father’s last ahoy,
sailing in one son’s shine, in love and faith.

(C) Walter J Wojtanik – 2014


“Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations:” ~Leviticus 10:9

Dad drank.
He sank into a distilled puddle of despair.
And we were there, my siblings and I
to watch his decline and take notes.
As much as we despised his ranting,
his belligerence, his “Bull in the China Shop” demeanor,
we knew we would not all walk away unscathed.
We make our choices. We accept responsibilities.
And we paid the price when acceptance wanes.
There is always a price to pay for the sins of the father.
My brother paid. My youngest sister paid. And I.
And try as hard as I might, the fight never ends.
Wagons should have side rails. I crave
my sobriety, and society should understand.
Dad drank, until cirrhosis begot liver cancer.
Since then, his answers came “easily” along with regret.
His admission, a “should have, could have,
would have done things differently” refrain.
It left stains on us all. There is always a stain.


© Copyright Walter J Wojtanik – 2014



The Brothers Wojtanik
The Brothers Wojtanik

We come as four,
brothers of the same mother.
No other can lay claim to the names,
but all the same it’s not all we share.
A love of sport, fraternal cohorts
and short of Dad’s style and
Mom’s winning smile, it took a while
to become clear, three with hairlines
not receding, but in full surrender.
I have retained my mop top and the graying
hasn’t started to stop me in my tracks.
Full of class by themselves, but with heads
together make an ass and a half of themselves.
Bald is beautiful, but my brush remains dutiful.
You can say I’ve taken a shine to my hair.

© Copyright Walter J Wojtanik – 2014


“Tarnished and dented; a bauble from a bygone day”

Tarnished and dented; a bauble of a bygone day.
In a wooden cigar box; keepsakes both, with
little more function than that. The stem fused
to the casing, the workings have retired. But,

it has inspired me to find the link. The contents
of the box play like a road map; clues to unravel
the mystery that is my history. The key, worn and
encrusted with years of dirt and oils from feeble fingers.

It lingers in my hand for a moment, its uncertainty secured.
Papers, folded and bound with a frail rubber band
line the bottom of the box. A visa document,
possibly a first issue wrapped in a tissue to protect

what it meant to an old Polish immigrant determined
to become all that America had to offer. Naturalization
documents, meant to pronounce his acceptance
of a lifestyle long sought, and their acceptance of him

as one of the free and brave. The camera buried amongst
the treasures, bellows cracked and torn, a forlorn
instrument with which a part of his life had been preserved.
It all deserved a better fate, but it is too late to shed

a single tear from your eyes for its demise. The puzzle
is splayed before you, the detective of your past.
A torn swatch of a fabric, hues faded but shades
of blue and red and white pressed between pages.

Finally, one last piece remains. A photograph.
a dark and handsome young man; heavy jacket and
a fedora pulled down across the brow. Intermingled
with other similar folk unconcerned for their purpose.

But the subject stands tall. Proud. Posed to save
this moment in memory, and upon this daguerreotype
for long after. In the background, Lady Liberty stands strong.
In his hand an American flag clutched to his chest.

A chain from buttonhole to vest pockets and a key as a fob,
a cinch to keep his pride from bursting. It insinuates
the only part missing was the watch that sat tucked
close to his left hand. A trinket; a remembrance

of the father he had left behind in Igolomia, Poland
to claim his dream. It remains strong in your own heart
as the box that holds your Great-Grandfather’s declaration secure.
You are sure the timepiece marked his life as well as your own.


Presented at dVerse Poets Pub – OLN Week #104