Did you notice how children want you to admire them when they are doing something special? I used to sit in my garden and watch my son jumping on the trampoline. As it turned out, I had to watch him, I could not read my paper instead, because the moment I lowered my eyes he’s cry out from the air, “Mommy, Mommy, look at me, look how I jump. Did you see what I did? Oh, you are not looking…”
Their childhood passes so quickly: they grow up, graduate from high school, from college. Then, they move away. We are left alone, wishing that we looked at them when they asked. (I’m glad I did). In June we celebrate graduations and the Father’s Day. Here’s a poem I wrote about a father and his little daughter playing on the beach. That daughter might have been me, on the distant, cold shore of the Baltic Sea. My father did not like water, but I spent hours swimming. I even knew how to swim backwards…
On the Beach
Daddy, Daddy! Look at me!
Look how I jump! Higher than the waves!
Daddy, look! I caught a fish!
Oh, it got away…
Don’t worry, Daddy, it’s okay,
I can be a fish.
Look, I’m swimming.
I’m a fish now and you are a shark.
Try to catch and eat me!
Let’s play fish!
You can’t get me
You can’t get me
Wow! That was a big wave!
Salty! I swim backwards now.
Did you know I can swim
backwards like a crab?
Watch out! I got you!
The crab caught the shark
and ate him! I win! I win! I win!
Let’s walk along now,
Maybe we’ll find
pretty seashells for my room.
Maybe we’ll find a pearl.
Will you make me a crown with my pearl?
I’ll be a real pearl princess.
I love you, Daddy, I love you so much!
I’ll always be your princess!
Daddy, Daddy! Look!
I found a pearl!
© 2008 by Maja Trochimczyk
For a companion piece to this childish monologue of a five-year-old, I picked a “geometric” poem, structured in two parts with a “horizon” line in between, just like the paining it was inspired by. (“Linea in aurea” means “line in gold” – almost, it is not correct Latin, but sounds good. “On the Beach” also has this pivotal central point in the little girl’s song, so there’s a structural similarity in two vastly different poems.)
For some reason, a beautiful, geometric painting by my favorite Hungarian painter, Susan Dobay, called “Sunset,” reminded me of pearls. Maybe it was the memory of the shining surface of water at dusk, an expanse of brilliance against the quickly graying sky. But the geometric transformation made this image a beach from an alien planet. Pearls are, according to one legend, made of a mother’s tears that fell into the water and became jewels, shining with sadness. There is something melancholy in their glossy sheen. They also lose their luster when not worn, for they have to be touched by warm human skin to stay shining and brilliant.
The subdued colors of Susan’s “Sunset” are quite melancholy, just like the pearls. I created a subdued mood by repeating the “sibilants” – shell, sunset, shelter, sun, sadness, sand, shore, silver… The word “shell” has another meaning in the last line: “shell-shocked” means “deeply traumatized.” One consequence of trauma is a tendency to escape from reality, another is compulsive control over one’s surroundings, continually organized in perfect order, just like the waves in Susan’s painting. That’s what makes this image so sorrowful and full of meaning for me, ten years after the death of my father from gunshot wounds. A home invasion robbery I wish I could forget. Or, maybe today I’ll wear another string of pearls…
~ after a painting by Susan Dobay
In a parallel universe
umbrellas are made of seashells
and shelter suns from the glare
of the waves – daintily, stealthily
threading lines through more lines
ad infinitum. The air breathes
with golden contours of silence
after sadness danced away
on the sand, at the shore,
above silver waves – twirling,
circling towards the horizon.
Linea in aurea in linea
Line after line after line
You have to tread carefully here,
not to be snared by metallic vines
that multiply, moving into calm.
You have to be cautious – so close
to the heart of sorrow in this cosmos
of resignation, dignity and absence,
where waves petrify into shells,
the rhythm of their frozen crests
echoing the pearl-gray patterns
that blossom in the foreign,
distant, shell-shocked sky.
© 2009 by Maja Trochimczyk
Photos and poetry (c) 2008-2011 by Maja Trochimczyk
"Sunset" by Susan Dobay, used by permission