Ask Me Anything

I arrive again
To visit you treasured two.
You will not readily recall
Precisely which face mine is
Among the rushing throng
Behind your uncertain eyes.

You desire devoutly
The prompt and willing service
Your words were wont to offer
To your kindly sentiments,
And the smooth conveyance
They might furnish
To your hazy queries.

But ask me anything,
And I will readily recount
Your comforting home,
Your family’s embrace,
Your hearty table,
Your counsel by the hearth.

Ask me anything,
And I will regale you
With the story of a lost and desperate boy
Found and restored,
Redeemed and valued
In a transaction recorded by the galaxies
And calculated beyond all realms.

Ask me anything.
Chide not yourselves for the theft
That the years have perpetrated
Upon your recollections.
I will sing a song of thousands of gestures
Which you would have called nothing.
Fear not to forget, for I will sing it
A million times if you wish
Because to me your nothing was everything.

Just ask me anything,
But you need not ask.
Let me live again with you
The glory of all you gave me.
I will deliver back to you
My opulent share
Of sumptuous memories
From your precious and loving lives.
My spirit has grown fat on them
And feeding on them again
Will all the more sustain my soul.

Ask me anything,
And I will answer.
And ask me to come again and again
For you to ask me more.

6 thoughts on “Ask Me Anything

  1. Paul, this is so hauntingly deep, full of cherished memories of a time past, now restored. I sense generational family and friends and their abiding presence in your life. Such beauty in the crevices where perhaps scars once were. I’m sad and happy all at once!

    1. You are truly a perceptive reader. The two people I visited last week were welcoming (the beauty) to me in my troubled teenage years (the crevices). As of September, they will have been a continual part of my life for forty years. I appreciate that you read my posts–thank you!

  2. I’ve a sense that this beautiful, beautiful poem is written to someones who are battling dementia, perhaps. Certainly aging. It so recalls the time I had to take my grandmother to the nursing home and we passed the ward where Alzheimer’s patients sat in wheelchairs, most of them women, one trying to feed a doll. I had a profound sense of life being a full circle, watching it. The aging become childlike in many ways; I see it most in their expressions and eyes. That is what struck me from your beginning stanza with “uncertain eyes”. I am also reminded of The Giver, in which the Receiver holds all memories….you are the Receiver and now the Giver, giving memories back to those who created them for you. I was just thinking about this book earlier today… at any rate, you paint the most loving portrait of life and gratitude in these moving lines.

    1. Fran, you are indeed correct. I visited two dear friends, who happen to be the parents of a high school friend with whom I have remained close for decades. During my first couple of visits, I struggled with the sadness of seeing them lose the rich memories that they had amassed for themselves and had helped to create for others, such as myself. Without that family as part of my life, I do not know how I would have emerged from my teenage years. I drew much strength from this couple in particular. With later visits, I came to understand better the natural cycle of things (as your anecdote illustrates), and I understood the role I could play and take joy in while perhaps even imparting joy.

      Interesting that when I first started teaching Lowry’s book, I resented the curriculum I had to follow, and I looked down on the story because I would have preferred to teach one of the classics. I have since learned better and evolved beyond my prejudices. My students and I have found profound revelation in that work, and I find your comparison of it to my experience to be apt and moving. Thank you for pointing that out.

      1. Confession: I wasn’t initially a fan of The Giver, either, until the ending scenes… ended up writing a critical essay on its imagery. I couldn’t help but see the connection in your own story. Your gratitude shines bright and in it I see the glittering thread of self-sacrificial love – a thread that runs inconspicuously through most of The Giver, and is clearly there in this couple who gave of themselves on your behalf when you were young. Such people are the greatest of life’s gifts. My grandparents were such people, as well as others who arrived on the scene to guide me exactly when specific guidance and “shaping” was needed. To mix some metaphors, as Shakespeare said, “one man in his time plays many parts,” and so we do, when we rise, in turn, to the role of giver and receiver of such love. Thank you also for the gift of your thoughts and words, Paul.

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