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Friday, February 17, 2012

Three Hundred Words

for Clifford Abbott Dodd 1952-2012

and Kitty Tyler, his wife


The husband of an old friend passed away recently,

younger than I am now, which stuns me just a bit

and while I never met this bearded man

who played Santa and served his nation,

I think about what the world knows

about him from the words of his obituary

sent to me by his wife, my friend of 50 years.


And what do our lives boil down to when the kettle

is turned on high and we are rendered mute

by the ages that follow our brief visit to this planet.

For Cliff, the eyes of his neighbors will read

just under three hundred words that describe

his life, his loves and his family

word that speak to millions across the future world.


Many who have shared this air with Cliff

will never even have that many words, if any,

that prints their stamp upon the earth

in the language of their people to tell where

their feet took them across the variegated surface

of this mostly blue planet we call Earth,

a place from which a rare few will step away.


And in these lines we read, we are to fill

in the blanks and the pauses between the letters

with what we know of this life,

the birth and all the happiness of his parents,

and their struggle to keep a roof over his head,

food in his mouth and clothes on his body

during all the weather that played through his growing years.


So too, the first day of kindergarten and all the years

he learned and breathed the measures of life

into his youthful mind, dreaming what and wheres

he would make a mark and do the bidding

of his soul, to stand with all the others

who swirl around him as he walks each day.


What of his service and his generosity

and all the good he did in the smallest moments

when he forgot himself and pushed another

forward into a better world with a kind word

or the effort of his life with a gift of money:

we are the benefactors of the time he learned

to be human after all the growing days


If we are to read between these lines

that so many will know today;

his mother's sleepless night when teeth

became her nemesis, when his tears

and screams kept the night awake,

when she imagined horns growing

from his little head to haunt her rocking body.


What of forgotten playground fights

from sass of youthful swagger and fist

that started with a piece of candy

or the first love shared by two young boys

who each felt it necessary to defend

their love from the other's advancing

ardor that surely could not stand the test of time


We know all this and imagine more

that is common to every man and woman,

where through this path of words

must come an end to what is told: a place

where we exchange our thoughts

with those he loved through all the years

where tears become a knowing smile.


So to Cliff we say so long

and I thank him from afar

for his care and love for my friend

returned to me through wires and glass

qwerty keyboards and glowing screens:

its up to us to support her now

our Kitty of new memories and ready smile.


Here now is the end of what I write today

about these moments we all must face

when wonder begins to stir my 60 years

of what will be written for others to read

and if I shall measure up to Cliff's three hundred

a man I never met who sold books

and spoke to children through their sugar plum dreams.




Copyright © 2012 by Barry G. Wick

with permission for his immediate family

to reproduce as they see fit.



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