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Remnants

Grandfather,
I never knew your Irish heart.
You kept it carefully hidden—
packed away in the attic
with priceless trinkets
and old photographs.
It remains a mystery
like the pirates' treasure
you once said was buried
on a beach nearby;
still unearthed—
still protected—
by the long finger ledge
that stretched out
into the wild Fundy tides.

But I look at one treasure
among the things
you left behind:
a family heirloom Bible
with fascinating etchings
of Celtic design.
Its dry crisp leaves
open to my fingers
and early morning sun
that slowly search and pour
over your legacy of lines:
names of relatives—
faceless images—
before my memory, and now
beyond the grasp of time.

Fate moves along
coursing its own stream:
diverging into rivulets
birthing new bloodlines
and awakening old dreams.
Grandfather, your home
belongs to another—
an Irish artist
making his own history;
drawing from the same
simple elements— the same
bits of earth and sea—
that made your blue eyes
sparkle, and explore
with such intensity.

Here, inside these four walls,
I am a stranger now.
I cannot run my hand along
the bannister you carved
or look out through the window
at the sunrise or the sea—
but I can still hear
your silent step upon the stair,
climbing its gentle slope
towards the second floor,
where your first born son was born—
my father—who followed
in your footsteps
to the lonely shore.

My father—a fisherman—
who knows the whip of wind—
the flush of storm;
who can chart his way across
rough waters, in the dark—
as well as in the morning calm;
a captain whose hand is steady
on the salted oar and wheel;
whose skill remains unfathomed
by his daughter, marvelling still.
A man who knows all these things,
yet knew so little about you
who became a secret reef—
shrouded in mist—
beyond mind's view.

But I remember as a child
catching a momentary glimpse,
when you came in from the winter
to the warmth of ginger scents
and Ellie's molasses cookies,
filling the kitchen
with lingering summer spice—
while the fire blazed
in the woodstove
and the day slipped into night.
Then you sat down in your rocker
with your savory treats and tea,
and I watched
your firm face soften;
a hint of sweetness and revery.

And I remember green,
green walls everywhere—
the many shades of Ireland
your parents brought
and left upon your heart,
and a small cascade of tales
passed through my father
down to me: remnants
of superstitions, visions,
and half-sketched memories.
Grandfather—
you are yet a mystery:
a book of unsolved dreams—
a story with missing pages
that I long so much to read.

SOURCE: AWAKENED by Cindy Spear Polley (now Cindy Spear Ross) (1994) - used with permission from the author.

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