I wrote this poem recently for one of the discussion groups on Goodreads of which I am a part ,when time allows. Hubs likes it, so I thought I would share it with you.
Ferns. The two Massingales sisters.
I remember them.
I never knew nor cared to ask why
the sisters shared the same name.
It never seemed to bother either one, and
I was never confused as to
whom I spoke, and they always knew
to whom I was speaking. There was no
Seussian need for Fern 1 or Fern 2.
They were the Ferns, and they lived
next door to the library, where I
worked each day, shelving returned
and misplaced books.
Their father, old Mr. M., as many called him,
had donated the money and land for the library, and
had the building designed and built to his
exacting specifications. He died the day after
the ribbon was cut. The Ferns held the scissors
and “Father M,” as the Ferns called their father,
watched them cut the strip of red silk that barred
the entrance. He was tired, he told them, and bypassed
the festivities, and went home to lie down.
Most of his own library, botanical in nature,
served as the initial volumes to fill the shelves.
Fern and Fern hadn’t cared to keep them.
They knew what was in the books,
and Father M certainly no longer had need of them.
After Father M died, the Ferns had need of
very little. They spent their days on the front
porch, sitting erect in matching chairs,
where they could watch the comings and goings
through the doors of Father M’s library.
I did not come to meet Fern and Fern
until they were quite elderly. I had not yet
been born when the library was first built.
I had finished high school and had been
working at the library for about two years
before I gathered the courage to walk up to
their deeply shaded Victorian porch and introduce
myself. At the time, I lived too deeply within myself
to know how foolish I was to think they would not
know who I was, nor all on my family tree.
The Ferns received me graciously and always offered
me a straight chair that matched theirs and a beverage
to complement the season; then they invited me to “converse.”
One might expect spinster sisters who spent their days
seated on the porch to have little of interest to
say or share, but about the Ferns they would be wrong.
They were keen observers of everything and everyone
within their purview. As limited as that might have been,
It was far greater than my own, and their observations,
especially about the people of our town were wry and
astute. They too seemed amused, but more so, that I had
never made note of the same things.
Had I not seen how the days Kitty Jacobsen
walked into the library, she always wore her
hair and dress neat and smooth,
and how some of those days she left
with a different hitch in her step,
her hair unpinned in places,
her skirt twisted or wrinkled.
And that this happened only
when the janitor, Murray Burleson,
Me? I had only noticed that some days
when Kitty visited, she read,
and others I only noticed her
flushed and smiling face
as she rushed to leave.
Oh, and that the banister railings
never seemed to get dusted on those days.
The Ferns told me about the Mayor
and his brownbagging, and about the two
Fox brothers who spent more time at
the library than most 7- and 9-year old boys do.
They always left just before dark,
but went home reluctantly.
It did not escape the Ferns’ notice
nor did they shy from reporting, discreetly,
the cuts and bruises on the
older brother’s face and hands.
The Ferns saw to it that they got help.
The boys probably never knew from where.
I remember the Ferns. I never really knew them, but
they knew me. I eventually went to college and grad school;
became a librarian. The Ferns told me about a scholarship,
which I won. They didn’t say so,
but I know I was the only one
told about it, or who applied.
I learned a lot in school
about books, and archives,
and different filing and
I learned about life from the Ferns;
I learned to keep my eyes open
and my mouth shut unless I have something to say.
I learned to say what needed to be said.
The Ferns died two days apart.
It happened while I was at school.
I never said goodbye. I did find where
they were buried, both in the same plot.
I found one of Father M’s
botany books in the library.
One of the well-worn pages had notes on it,
likely written by Father M.
The notes annotated the information
about the many varieties of ferns.
About a year after their death,
I purchased two fern plants –
I don’t even know what kind,
but I planted them on the grave.
It seemed right somehow.
I stop by regularly now after work
and talk to them, keeping them abreast
of the comings and goings at the library.
Just today I told them about the birth of
Kitty and Murray Burleson’s first grandchild.
With all my heart, I wish you enough. . .