This piece was re-worked from an earlier version for the Six Sentence challenge, with the prompt word ‘presence’.
Who knows how long this will last
but whatever each generation brings,
there will be totems of the past
fixed firmly insistent in each of our minds,
totems with faces carved in the hard woods
that only family trees produce
and set, sometimes poles apart, in the family grove.
Children growing themselves in new numbers each year,
all named and loved and parented in common for a day
with tear-filled eyes, chocolate-coated faces and grinning cheeks,
each hoisted to embrace and admiration,
all feats applauded and all false pride mocked.
Food, prepared as sanctioned by time,
in unspoken, ordained ritual by the women,
the bearers of all sustaining life
while men, surrounded by seemingly unobservant boys,
use beer to shorten stretching distances,
quietly competing every hurdle
until a child clings to a leg
Lives past, sitting patiently in reserved and sacred chairs,
coming back to life in anecdotes of bastardry and joy,
as toddlers and crawlers, excited and bewildered,
sit knee-deep in wrapping paper,
while babes at breast, absorb every nuance
through the pores of their clan skin
and the memories encoded in their mother’s milk.
The married-ins and new lovers,
belonging in their separateness to this caravan,
as hopeful as those that followed a certain star,
come bearing gifts,
as the matriarch,
with skills both ancient and subtle,
draws to her these strands unknitted,
so they ever unravel
and pull the fabric apart.
These are our totems,
their presence taking firmer shape with each year,
and living beyond presents shared,
ensuring that in all our futures
we will have at least one day