Cathexis Northwest Press
when 1 + 1 is more than 2; A Measure of His Intention
By: Annette Brown
when 1 + 1 is more than 2
because there is no video record of his life
i remember him in 2 dimensions--
posing on santa’s lap, even at 80, cuz we all did
showing off garden-ripe tomatoes--so red and juicy we ate them like apples
adventuring side-by-side on the gator with his great grandson
suspenders suspending a wardrobe misfortune
dark glasses & ball cap preserving aged eyes
a life summarized in silent hues of green, red, blue, yellow--rainbow
he’s gone. but yesterday he came back a little by accident.
an i-phone update needed space-- 917 voicemails to consider--kind of like closet cleaning-- 917 voicemails to weigh - toss - repeat-- and discovering image + sound is more than 2.
a search for maybe-treasures through 2020 to 2018,
where a message labeled “Dad” caught my breath--
my heart stopped. no, raced. then both in awkward beat.
Dad--used in past tense since august 2018.
i saved the record of his voice, like a gem. and the next. 6 in all. but i could only look. Dad--just 3 letters, such a big small word.
days later i braved a listen:
the promised report of a doctor visit, a dinner invite... just everyday things we miss everyday, nothing profound but
his voice-- deep, rich, its rhythm the backdrop to nearly all my life, a comfort, a safety, a reflection, a reassurance, a support,
the first sound of love i ever knew. the treasure amid the messages— “love you, sweetheart,”
hollowing my stomach, honey-aching my heart-- a delight, a pain, a prize--his voice after 3 years.
A Measure of His Intention
He was old when I met him—the lines of his face mapping many lives.
I knew he must have been young once.
But I could not imagine—
A Southern teen, a red wagon filled with scrap metal from the Pascagoula swamp,
a fender, a bumper or collards and sweet peppers from the garden—
anything to sell in town—
pulled forward by the steel of his resolve.
A life made fragile by the gentleman father who could not take the strain of five children, who left and left the memory of the money that went with him.
I imagine now the denim coveralls of his youth, faded, frayed, a few sizes smaller than he wears today, a few inches too short— the space between the hem and ankle—a measure of his intention to outwit the poverty pursuing him.
Annette Brown is a mother, a wife, a mediocre gardener and cook but a competent baker. She lives on an almond farm in central California where she enjoys time with family and friends, good wine, and “sky gazing” on overcast days, appreciating the beauty and diversity of clouds while hoping it will rain.
Behind the Scenes:
“when 1 + 1 is more than 2:
Sometimes a surprise is a good thing. When I found my father’s voicemails three years after his passing, I was not sure. I was shocked to find them, apprehensive about listening to them. But when I did hear his voice after all that time, hear it outside of my memory, I was struck by how rich the sound was, by how much more than just adding a layer to an image it was. I was deeply moved by the sound of his voice. From the shock, the joy, the awe, the gratitude came the inspiration for the poem. I am so grateful I chose to slog through the numerous voicemails rather than just clicking 'delete all.'
A Measure of his Intention:
When I was a teen, my summer job was working construction with my grandfather. The work was challenging but I enjoyed being in his company, especially when he told stories. Once on our way to a worksite, we saw an abandoned red wagon roadside, and he relayed a bit about his father abandoning the family and the ensuing hardship that act created. Only an 8th grader at the time, he still felt responsible for helping with family expenses, so he used his red wagon, once a favored toy, to transport items from home to market. He recalled his most lucrative ventures: scrap metal ripped from abandoned vehicles left in swamps outside Pascagoula, Mississippi and vegetables picked from the family garden. His response to hardship inspired me, and since hearing his story, I have never looked at a red wagon the same."