REFINISHING WOOD

I’ve finally gotten around to redoing my first poetry chapbook collection, “WOOD”.

My “first” poetry collection –        WOOD

Nicely bound with a slick new cover and an added introduction, I am satisfied with the results. This second printing blends in nicely with the rest of the collection. Just like Dad, it felt good to rework (refinish) “Wood”.

Now, the companion follow-up “Return to Wood” makes a bit more sense.

THE OPERATING TABLE

Skinned knees and elbows,
and a face sliding along a graveled
street, bounding up the curb
and rattling a few molars to the core.
Cuts and burns and bloody noses,
all treated here; without insurance cards,
or appointments. Emergency room
always open, with Tender Loving Care
and a bottle of Mercurochrome.
A gentle hand pulling pieces of stone
from the face her “handsome” boy,
wincing with me and holding back her own tears.
Always at no charge and with the healing powers
of a tender kiss on the repaired injury,
in time to get dinner on the table
when her work had finished.
Doctor Mom was always in.

UNCLE FRANK HAD A LIMP

I knew him in his later years,
amidst fears of this craggy old-man
with the pronounced limp.
I had no knock against the man,
even though he tried prodding me into it.
“Knock on my leg!” he’d harass me,
and it would embarrass me to shy away.
He’d rap his knuckles against his shin.
The sound stayed with me. Knock on wood!
***
Old photographs of my grandmother
and her siblings emerge and a surge of
a phantom spasm rose up my right leg.
Uncle Frank and his dog in frame,
five legs and a wooden pole.
Legends find their truth; even in family re-telling.
Frank always explored the railroad tracks
that ran behind the house. Against all warning,
one morning they found a delirious Frank pleading,
bleeding profusely from his severed appendage.
On the flatbed of the family truck he was carted,
as he started begging his father not to punish.
My great-grandfather asked one question:
“After disobeying me, will you do it again?”
A lesson learned at a great price.
The resounding of knuckles against
a wooden prosthetic was punishment enough.

(C) Walter J. Wojtanik

Poetic Asides 2017 April PAD – Day 13: Family

AT THE MASTER’S KNEE

A skill set handed down from Walter to Walter to Walter. Serving at the wooden altar of a carpenter’s devotion. Wood became the medium of this young boy’s wishes; I would dismiss everything else. An “apprentice” at an early age, the stage was set to be adept with tools. And my father had rules. Goggle for safety, guards in place. Keep your face out of the line of the blade. Be sure every cut made was the first and only. By dictate, “measure twice, cut once”. And there were a bunch more. I began with an apron full of 8d nails, handing each up to the man I looked up to! I Learned to measure with precision, a decision that made Dad nervous at first. (He would sometimes curse if I misfired) But the desired effect came eventually. When I mastered his table saw, his raw sidekick knew carpentry.

In time my focus had shifted from woods to words. Expression in a new medium, had a large impact on me. I could build much like Dad had taught. I did not get caught unprepared. Words shared in poetic pursuit and me more astute to appreciate what he did and the lessons they offered. And each phrase proffered was measured and precise. It was nice to have all these “tools” and inspirations from which to choose in this new endeavor. Inherited from the Master Carpenter, a desire always mired in trees; from carpentry to poetry, I have found my comfort zone, my own place. His memory still soothes me. It puts a smile on my face.

All of life’s lessons
Take root in the family,
Branches of the tree

© Walter J. Wojtanik – 2016
Poetic Asides April Poem-A-Day Challenge 2016 – Day 5: “Experience/Inexperience”

RETURN TO WOOD

You’ve heard it said, “You can’t go home again”. And as that may be true in reality, memories and happy moments will live in your heart and mind taking you back to where your life began. Years after we had left our ancestral home, I assembled poems based on our house on Wood Street in tribute to my father the carpenter, and all influences that gave me my bearing. My very first poetry collection, a “Chapbook” entitled  WOOD was self-published and relatively well received. You’d think it would be the last word on the subject. Apparently not!

I had gone “back to the well” on numerous occasions to penned poems extending the scope of growing up  from one end of Wood Street to the other. So, my mother gets more play here, as well as the neighbors and our domain that spanned from Warsaw Street to Roland Avenue. In a sense I am going back home one more time. My next book, RETURN TO WOOD is the extension of that magical place. It had been a combination of a personal OZ, Neverland with a touch of Narnia blended in. Not so surprisingly, all three of those places had been subjects of “Return” stories as well. I’d appreciate it greatly if you watched for it and visit WOOD once more.

 

Return to Wood

RETURN TO WOOD is available at Amazon.com as of today, and will hit Barnes and Noble.com soon.

~Walt

NEAR THE ERIE TRACK (The House With None of Us In It)

I do not venture there anymore.
The old homestead near the Erie track
stands in an unrecognizable state.
The tales I’ve been told of our old house are tragic.

The house is empty, a haunted house bears more life.
The sharp contrast cuts like a serrated knife,
shredded, tattered edges and shards of memory
laid to waste and leaving a bitter taste in our mouths.

Generations stacked three high would cry
a collective tear if they went near the Erie track.
In fact, many more would shed when the fact enters their heads
that there’s nobody in the house worth a mention.

I cringe with a strain; a tension winding my spring
until I release and cease to be rational.
A right and traditional home; a suitable sanctuary,
it is scary how quickly it has fallen. It is hard

to imagine a manicured yard and bountiful garden left barren,
I wouldn’t care if the years of my making weren’t taking
their toll on my memory. There is nary a day that goes by
that I do not try to recall her as our domain. All that’s left is pain.

Indeed, she offered us all that a house should, it was good
that warmth and shelter were felt in her embrace.
We played no part in her disgrace; this place is no longer
ours to concern over. We’ve grown stronger in our absence.

I do not venture there anymore. That place,
that house with none of us in it. I do not look back.

Written in response to:

“The House With Nobody In It” by Joyce Kilmer

 

***This poem was featured in my first poetry chapbook, WOOD – poems written for a carpenter father and A Wood Street homestead. More stories of her abandonment cause me to revisit it here!

THE CARPENTER’S COMPLAINT (The Knock on Wood)

Knotty pine, knotty pine,
you give me a naughty time,
bending nails, dulling blades,
just look at the mess we’ve made!

You make me nuts, I start to drool
and measure twice (which was the rule).
When I cut you down to size
I get sawdust in my eyes.

Soon I sneeze, choke and cough,
surely I have had enough.
I look at you and I see shelves,
but you’ve loftier visions for yourselves.

You chip, you split, you dent, and fail
when my hammer misses a nail.
My wits end has made me spastic.
I wish that you were made of plastic.

 

© Copyright Walter J. Wojtanik 2013

WHO’S THERE?

It was a great place to gestate and grow,
knowing that the nuts never dwell
where the trees no longer grew.
A strain of Dutch Elm erased
the classic overhang that once graced
her curbs. Children played
where their imaginations took them,
and staying engaged until the street lamps
flickered hello. And you knew you had to go
when the symphony of parental
whistles sounded. You were grounded
to the people  who resided there,
never a care of destruction or death
until age showed its tired head.
The yards were mowed and trimmed,
a shimmering emerald island
surrounded on all sides by love.
Above all else, it was the home
for generations, felt the pains
and elation of a familial bond,
until we finally reached beyond
her borders. Wood Street  was home.
But now it stands alone. The only
knock on Wood was that no one had remained.
Knock, knock? Who’s there?
No one.

© Copyright Walter J. Wojtanik 2013

 

INTERVIEW WITH CLAUDETTE YOUNG

I had the extreme pleasure of being interviewed by Claudette Young on her webspace, CLAUDSY’S BLOG. In it we discuss life, poetry and other journeys into worded wonder. Thanks Claudette for this opportunity.

http://claudsy.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/interview-with-poet-walt-wojtanik

BECOMING MY FATHER

 

My elbows hurt. Years of swinging
a heavy framing hammer takes its toll.
Just like my father, the first thing to go.
To extol the virtues of hard work
hardly works for one bred and raised
into it. A good fit for a blue collar guy.
Big plans and ideas; a mental diarhea
that clouds the here and now. How did
I not see it before? Sure, I’m enough
of my own man to matter, and still
enough of my old man to not care.
Where do I draw the line? It is a fine line
at that, and that begins the tale. The travails
of this life, rife with pitfalls and victories
are visited upon the son; the one most like
the man he aspired to be. My shuffle is
more deliberate. My vision waning.
My voice, still strong on paper dissapates
like vapor when I speak. I seek approval
to verify my insecurities. The purity of
thought and deed in need of a boost. No better
place to roost than in his shoes. These blues
sound better with a strong drumbeat; a sweet
syncopation to drive this transformation homeward.
The signs are tell-tale. The change is nearly complete.
I mailed my registration to AARP today.
All for a six dollar savings on a safe driving course,
to get me a ten percent discount on insurance rates.
I am becoming my Father. My elbows hurt.