04 June 2010

Magpie for Isa

When I was 14 we drove from Montana to Minnesota, to Lake Vermillion. It was the last time I saw my great grandfather Evert Vaino Sulin. He was 92 (and had his driving priveleges revoked 4 years prior for pulling back and forth to the side of the road looking for a spot for his fourth wife to pee). The only person he remembered in our family was our dog, Floppy. My mom’s face changed when he didn’t know that she was Karen, his granddaughter.


I knew Evert as Isa,
which means father, in Finn.
Isa built the cabin at the lake
by himself when he was 19 years old.
(In his 50s, my father
built a cabin
near Holland Creek
in a Montana valley—
a grizzly corridor
between the Mission Mountains
and the Bob Marshall Wilderness—
he felled the timber,
peeled the bark,
notched the logs,
stacked them.)

Isa managed the dump in Virginia, Minnesota.
Isa scavenged the dump in Virginia, Minnesota.
I envy the trash at his fingertips
treasures in his hands.

He found this head of clay
hiding in the dump one day
and made of it a legacy
to send our dead away.

Sylvia, my grandma’s sister
received the head of clay—
a funeral dirge to wail away
the accordian’s quiet Polish grief
at her husband Emil’s passing
(and every member since,
of our family’s heritage,

This head of clay picked up one day by Isa at the dump, follows us to our grave. The youngest over 5 carries it: a solemn honor bestowed. Isa believed in his heart that the head came from the bow of a ship sailing from Finland to America-the ship that brought him here...he swears he could hear her wailing in the wind. "Serendipitous, what you find in the dump," he'd say, a twinkle in his so blue eyes.

Shout out to Magpie Tales for the great picture for this ekphrastic piece.  Visit the Magpie link to check out gems others create from the picture.


Berowne said...

When I was in Finlnd I learned the phrase: "All Finns are carpenters." You captured that old-world atmosphere beautifully.

brenda said...

Berowne-I'm envious of your travels. Thank you for the kindness that you spread. It is evident on many poetry blogs. You are a good person. Thanks for stopping by here, too!

kathew said...

Wonderful post-what a beautiful Great Grandfather you had.

Anonymous said...

interest take brenda, I know Minnestoa well..the story fits wonderfully......bkm

Aoife.Troxel said...

I love the story! A figurehead...hmmm.

Helen said...

I also know Minnesota well! Lake cabins, stoic people, traditions ... good Magpie indeed!

Kimmie said...

I love the family legend and long tradition with belief and comfort woven throughout .... lovely magpie

Derrick said...

What a great history you've woven for this piece, Brenda!

Tumblewords: said...

A wonderful magpie. I love the sweetness and fun while recognizing the process that sometimes takes us away before we are gone.

Everyday Goddess said...

such a rich history! we have so much to learn from the oldest among us, i love that you connected to it's magic.

brenda said...

Thank you for your comments. It was fun to (as Derrick so eloquently put it) weave a history for this piece.

Embellishing family stories is fun. My students work on embellishing their stories, and almost always mention it as one of their favorite activities, in year end evals.

Minnesota holds a piece of me. It always will.

willow said...

Poetry is a wonderful way to preserve our ancestral legacies. Wonderful piece.

Brian Miller said...

so very real...i loved your magpie and the tradition that it shares...i imagine it from a ship as well..keep sailing...

Vicki Lane said...

Yet another life for this little bust! A nicely done and unique take on the prompt.

00dozo said...

Nice Magpie! It reminds me a little of my father and grandfather.

Jingle said...

fun and informative...
love the idea of sailing ships...

Lena said...

A wonderful post!

And I smiled at the thought of great Grandfather trying to find a 'spot' for his lady to pee.....!

ps.....I think we've all done it at some point. It's murder trying a piddle outdoors when you're a woman!