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He kept them in a night table drawer—a treasure of poems carefully hand-written in a composition book by his mother fifty years before. One of the poems, “My Boy,” was about him. How it must have warmed my Dad’s heart when he read it. Reece Wilmer Press, Jr. looked a lot like his mother and had inherited her stocky body build splattered with freckles, as I did.
I wasn’t particularly interested in the poems back then. It wasn’t until 1972, when he gave them to me, that I remembered they even existed. Martha Walton Press had died nine years before my birth. I am truly sorry that I never had the chance to know her. Dad didn’t talk much about his early family life, but I had the impression that it was a bit troubled. My mother mentioned to me that he had to quit school at age 16 to help support the family when his parents split up. (Ten years later, though, he graduated with a diploma in civil engineering from Drexel University).
The poems, written between 1899 and 1911, survived the five moves to date in my life. During this time, the writing has faded and the pages have become slightly torn and dog-eared. A few years ago when I took up genealogy, I read the poems several times, searching her words and studying the stylish handwriting in an attempt to know her better.
When I began self-publishing, it became apparent that these poems should be preserved in print. The themes of love, friendship, death and life are timeless. The words are cumbersome by today’s standards but their simplicity conveys a richness of emotion and nostalgia. Moreover, my grandmother was a feisty, creative, intelligent woman who played piano by ear, sewed clothing that she saw on a model and ran her own beauty shop. From the little I know about her, she seemed ahead of her time. When she became divorced, she married her younger brother-in-law, a bit unusual for the 1920s. She deserves to be remembered, and I can’t think of a better way to honor her memory.
As I continue in my writing journey, I feel that Martha’s spirit watches me, cheering me on. I sometimes wonder if she would have done more with her writing if life hadn’t gotten in the way. The luxury of retirement was not available to her; at the age of 57 she passed away from colon cancer.
I published her twelve poems in a short book entitled, “Martha’s Words,” in 2015. Here is the first poem—I hope you like it and will want to read more of her work.
A rose lies withered in my hand, And one by one, its petals fall. My thoughts oft turn to a better land Where no flowers will fall at all.
It reminds me too of an aimless past, Ah, full of regrets I now see. Yes, one by one, hopes all fall fast; There’s naught sure but eternity.
‘Tis sweet to live just day to day For hope fadeth with the morrow. And the prize we seek in a worldly way Is only a false hope we borrow.
I often pray that God, to me, may gift A life like the pure simple flower, Content to take his sunshine to live And scatter his blessings each hour.
I recently came across this poem I wrote in 1985 when I was cleaning out a closet today. I hope you enjoy it.
“True love does not seek its own reward; its worth, its dignity, is entrenched within its own existence; it breathes with soft sounds and lives in tender thoughts that touch the soul.
True love understands unspoken utterances; its beauty, its expression, is seen within the gentleness of the eyes; it whispers ‘always’ and never speaks the word ‘impossible’.
True love believes, when faith dares to falter; its trust, its devotion, abides in childlike innocence spotted by reality’s harshness; it feels the deepest depths of vulnerability and knows this to be the secret of its strength.
True love cries silently the tears of the beloved; its pain, its sorrow, is shared sacredly within the heart’s deepest chambers; it enjoys contentment when peace abounds and smiles when it hears the words ‘I love you’. “
Forty years ago, when I moved into my first apartment, I came across a beautiful plaque and purchased it for my new home. The wise words written upon it resonated with me from the moment I read them. Back in the 70s, the author was unknown, but it was later discovered to be Max Ehrmann, an American, who had originally published this piece in 1927.
I hope you enjoy reading, or re-reading them if you’ve come across this before.
Happy New Year! May 2016 be one of your best!
Desiderata ( in Latin, “desired things”)
“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.’
I came across this on Facebook today and was really struck by the warm emotion and thoughts that Mr. Nimoy’s words evoked in me. I smiled as I realized that I have been fortunate enough to have known a few very special people in my lifetime that I can say this about…people who are comfortable sharing the intimacy of silence.
How about you? Have you shared these special moments of silence with others?
I’m happy to announce that the e-book of my grandmother’s poetry, “Martha’s Words,” is now available for sale at Amazon.com. I am sharing with you another one of her poems as I did last year. I have learned from this selection, as well as from some of her other work, that my grandmother was a good judge of character and had a keen sense of whether someone was being “true or false.” 🙂 I have not given up the idea of a hardback book and am continuing to explore options.