Saturday, May 8, 2010

Titan Women II: Of Whom


As many of you will know.. my Mom  -  Eleanor Jordan, aka Miss Ellie, Mama Ellie, passed away on December 3, 2009.   I always posted this, or sent it out as an Email on Mother's day... and without being too immodest...She treasured this.   Its a tad long (this is the long version, with multiple generations) But I guess you can skip the parts about the other moms. For Miss Ellie, read bold.

A poem to my mom and the other mothers in my life,
by Kirk Jordan



The original Mama Ellie





If I were asked…to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of that people (the Americans) ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply: To the superiority of their women. Alex de Tocqueville.


I am the son of Titan women,
Born of water and of blood;
Born of Heaven’s will
and of the burning sod.


I am born of Terra
and of Sarah too,
a son of Adam, and
our “Father” Abraham, included
in the loins of faith.


I am the son
of strong STRONG women
and the sire of the same,
I have tasted fire,
and added to flame
of life.


Trace me back
and you will find
Irish maids and Cornish Lords,
scallywags and dumblewits,
pagans, saints, and tumbled hordes
mighty pillars, bloody swords,
and …a fire that burns back
to Eve.


--
I begin with Nana
not direct in Flesh and Blood
but sister in this ever branching tree,
and mother to the mother of my bride.
You were cut from stalwart cloth
and married to a man, who would cut
two continents apart,
and splice separated waters through
the Panama canal.

You bore humidity and insects
and the greater ravage of a man
who didn’t keep “one” home.
But through it all maintained
the strength that goes with inner dignity
and letting God consume the past.

You knew we disagreed
about some very basic things of faith,
(and science);
You held to a world, where pain
was but illusion. You shunned the world
of medicine (but lived long in you shunning)
even as you braced to bear “imaginary” pain.

But when it came to a life
lived in the spirit of Christian forgiveness
returning good for harm,
I honor your glory.

--
Then there is the Ami (Ahmee)
matron Saint of a small army,
Irish blood and New York bred,
You spoke in brogue and fingered Rosaries
even as the honor tumbled daily from your mouth
like a beautiful dripping faucet.

“Thanks be to God. Thanks be to God,” you said,
then startled the world with your maverick sayings:
I’d say “So”
You’d snap back: “Sew buttons on your underwear”
I’d say, “Sure, go ahead”
You’d reply, “Are you ready for Freddie – He’s the undertaker.”

As it is, you gave life to three -- titan women all
with the middlest my Mom;
They returned the favor
Catholic style, eighteen grandkids,
followed by so many more.
Oh, what memories I hold … the house, the smells,
the elegant clocks and beautiful glass -
Your hands tracing fragile cups or You, under the diving-bell curlers
and drinking coffee in high backed chairs…
Wild berries underneath the stairs,
Jesus standing with on the mantel with the open heart
and the painting in the basement (that I snuck off to see)
of Lilly-white women bathing in the lake.

You held on so long, so STRONG, after Delbert
your hansom, polio limping, hard working, depression schooled,
coin collecting, Protestant chauffeur
of a husband left this world,
and now we feel your absence
like a hole in the world.

like love gone away.

Next I turn to two that I knew less,
One I never met, and one whom I regret to say
that I lost contact with through adolescent inwardness
and the fray of severed families.

Edith… Mother of the Father of my bride
I understand that you were quite the saint,
and Mother of the five McGinns;
Brothers who would score their marks
as teachers, farmers, warriors, and business men;
They wore the suits of several wars
and climbed ever so far in their own private citadels.

I never met you but I see your mark
in the vigor of the men you left behind,
Men who love their country
and their faith.

-----
Grace … Mother of my dad
and conduit for so much now that gives me life.
You were a woman of the earth. A shepherd,
and a Methodist; our first Republican,
respectable and Oh, so graceful
in your pearls and lean muscled frame.

I understand that you wore pants before the time
even as you worked to tame a wild land. And what a land it was.
accessible by riverboat and mule, but never car –
You portaged up the Snake
to my name’s sake – the Kirkwood ranch.

Would it be that I owe growing love of pen to you?

I see your books upon my shelf:
Home below Hells Canyon
Canyon Boy
Idaho Reader.

Later you would climb with Len
with hard work and integrity
to places fitting to your quiet strength:
wife of US senator -- First Lady of the state.

Now the River surges ever closer:
Jean Mc Mom – Mother of my bride
I hold no blood of yours, but tangled with it daily,
even as I see your mark
upon our children, and my Bride.

You look like a titan woman
so I hope you will not balk,
When I say, that with your Jeffersonian coif,
chiseled form
and resolute stride,
You could fit by Jefferson among the rocks,
granite eyes looking out across Black Hills.

We know
that you span worlds.
architect and boss, stellar graduate of Rice,
beauty queen of Panama and
married to the man who SWAM the thing --
former atheist, and now
Sunday school teacher at the Thomas Road Baptist Church.

I won’t tell’m that you dance
a mean Charleston, or that
you once met Charles at the door
with loaded gun.
Sure he was a pilot and an officer,
in a hellish war … but no letters or phone calls
for five months
and five kids in six years, left you frazzled.

You know, that we call you the loud family.
McDad is leaning deaf but still, it seems to fit
the force that goes with all things McGinn.

And see, how the spirit of Christ within
is taming you… not a broken horse
But tempered, strong, and with a quiet joy.

We thank you for your nightly prayers
and the way, you’ve endured your own silent pains.
How is it that when you listen, my wife feels heard?


But when I try the same … well,
it just isn’t the same.


And now, a pause
I know that it's a prejudice
born of being born to you, But when it comes to you
(or Momma Ellie as she goes)
I see a broken titan,
patched with gold.


A woman of rare and enduring beauty.


My first mental picture, photograph derived
shows a little girl with hand-tinted lips
and red brown hair. They say
You favored Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz.
Or next, Audrey Hepburn in your senior picture.


Oh, what an image.
Gentle slope of a V-neck draped cross your shoulders,
elegant pearls and hair cut
daring short. Class mates would
remember the Knuckey girl, top of the class
and editor, with a cutting edge
and wild side.
Next mental picture shows you, just before you met my dad
breaking from the surf with scuba mask.
Thin cigarettes balanced on your lips, spooned hips
packaged in pencil leg jeans.


At eighteen you bought a one way ticket
AWAY From tradition and old church ways
to a California of convertibles and gold dust.
seagulls and stars.


Three years later you would wed
a young engineer and outdoorsman
sturdy with a zest for life,
the music of the Kingston Trio
dancing in your heads.


I see you there
rushing from the pines of the Wayside chapel
up the ragged coast
to the boats and rivers,
to your own pizza business
two kids,
and a small farm
so rich in childhood memories.


Next mental picture has you asking me (age seven)
What ever do you mean “Are you saved?”


As it is, I’d gone to some kid-hood missionary campaign
replete with sword drills and flannel-graph epics;
We learned of Pilgrim and his burden
emptied at the cross; and though I had yet
to visit either the Vanity Fair or the Slough of Despond
I said “yes” to the Celestial City.


Some weeks later you did too.


Conversion, for you
was never like a shift in sentiments,
No – it was like the first day of creation.


And that light
has been your life
every waking day.
and night.


And what a night it’s been.


I hope you will not mind, If I skip the glory years
when you stood strong
as Mom and wife
or, as missionary to the street-crowd,
Carrie Nation for the cause of Modesty,
Healer of other folk’s marriages.


Nor do I think you’ll mind
if I skip the greater part of night
(Though, how long it lasts).
Two husbands down, and no one now to share
your dreams of aging into godly grace and ministry.


Distant children,
Distant dreams,
And distance
sometimes even for us.


You take your wine, right off the vine; I like mine with age.
You take your kingdom in the future, past apocalypse and caged
in a thousand years. I’ll take mine – right now, albeit slow and growing like a mighty tree throughout the earth until the final day, when heaven crashes through the walls.


You take your gospel southern,
I drink mine pure black.
and
You walk in the spirit of conviction …
about some things, of which we are not convinced.


But even with our differences…


You have born
the hard humility
of giving everything to Jesus
Only to have him take your offer.


Dignity – His.
Family – His
Pleasure in the present – His.
All your hopes and dreams – His.
--


I see you now sometimes,
burdened down and grey
like a full-bodied version of Mini-Pearl
replete with Hawaiian drape-dress,
funky hat, and walker decked in ribbons.


I see you hitting the tambourine with streamers,
or doing the soft foot jig
before Baptists ever dreamed of such.


I see you (Oh this is funny)
Throwing litter back into the open window
of an offending motorist in a parking lot.
You say: “I think you lost this.”


I see you walking up to laughing black-men
dressed in suits and telling them how “gorgeous” they look.


I see you at the jail, or on the plane,
in the lanes and byways,
asking folks what they would say to God
if they met him tonight.


I see you walking into strip joints
past the surly hard-eyed stares,
and naked flesh to find
some gal who’d like to leave the life
but has to make a living.
And she’s thinking about Jesus.


I see you on your knees
every night, with sobs
like Monica weeping for her kids.


I see so many hearts,
now broken into, by the savior of the world.


I see a woman
Spit, chewed, and broken
like the fine Art of God.


I see some Titan, on
the other side of life
taller­­ than a Redwood.


I see one
of whom the world
was not worthy.


--------
KJordan 2001

for more on the other women in my life, see
http://startledbyexistence.squarespace.com/to-the-titan-women-book/