The Journey

Song of the Road At Seventy-Six


Inventory Farewell

Goodbye Siamese Kingdom shipping chest
That Edith Walker had sent ahead
When departing the missionary vocation with her parents
In the early years of the Twentieth Century, 1912
Patiently carved teak and balsa, hinged well
She had told Mark to give it to Dr. Smalley when she died
In honor of his devotion to the people
But Dr. Smalley died before Mark could bequeath it
And gave it to me saying you’re in the same category
He visited with his second wife Ina when Hannah graduated high school
Unable to sit inside four walls he became unaccounted restive
Walked around the dwelling, the hand-driven shaked walls and rooves
That Cap Kroh cut bolts for Ken and me to split out with our froe
I approached despite his words, “I know you have other guests.”
Mark then said, “This is an unusual house. There is not a match
For it in this whole valley.” He gave us a cedar sampling, it was June,1986
It grew high above the West porch roof until the fire department
    watched it blacken and die
Mark was famous as a skilled builder and violin-maker in his time
His calling card the 1920 Browns’ hay barn on the Fort Bragg Road
Forty feet high and a hundred and twenty long, all by hand tools
Mainly a carpenter’s square; he showed me how to ply it
And confided a tip for greasing spoked wagon wheels, just a dash at the bearing
Or the rest would fly off as waste.
    “I try to accomplish something every day,” he said
I took a fir truss-block home when the barn collapsed in 2012
    as well as his lost hammer
The handle fashioned from one-inch plumbing pipe and welded solid to the head
Both incinerated with Avrah’s furniture, our unassembled pine casket, and my tools
There were cots, tables, and chairs, bamboo for the Japanese Gate,
    a supply of LCD lightbulbs to last us out
That Ralph Pisciotta blithely sold a dollar each, a hundred of them all sizes, and Navajo rugs in a black Navy locker
I kept correspondence in the laundry dating from high school friendships
    and from the transiently grand figures of the age

  • Carole King in praise of a concert review I wrote, Robert Bly about a poetic figure I wrote.
  • Linus Pauling on visiting Willits, when I stipulated only with his wife, my East Side Road’s Lorene Cave’s classmate at the U. of Oregon circa 1930
  • Erik Erikson writing of Gandhi from India
  • Richard Feynman with a copy of his presentation to NASA about the exploded Challenger
  • Francis Edmunds, greatest educator of the Steiner movement, telling me I was a Speaker
  • Muriel Spark’s including a thought sent to her home in Umbria that appeared later in a novel
  • Robert Frost’s fountain penned signature above “Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening” that Flora Nichols Kiebert asked of him for my sake at a Redlands University reading circa 1960
  • Lipsticked letters from Sharon Doubiago, my Hebrew School classmate, Neeli Cherry’s/Cherkovski’s college friend
  • From Miriam Patchen along with her husband’s batiks, his books, his LP recordings–– with her dedications to the Rays
  • One screen saying, “To Whom These Village Fires Still Have Meaning, May Your Own Most Secret Animal of Light
  • Come Safely to You.” Thank you for the light Miriam and Kenneth across life and death. You taught us to freely cast the coinage of our days and abandon ourselves to love
  • Notes from Gary Snyder and Ursula Le Guin, the graceful autograph of Henry Miller, the elder Charleton Ogburns, Josephine Miles
  • Richard Roe who discovered that 16th century Italy had been captured in amber by Edward de Vere in the Shakespeare canon
  • Elisabeth Klarer who went to another solar system and later died from the strain, Adlai Stevenson’s literate autograph
  • A note of thanks from fellow Washingtonian Frank Rich, the time’s most prescient thinker and stylist, Jimmy Carter’s autograph
  • A lifetime subscription to “The Nelson Report”, the government’s insider report from my cheerful brave UC pal Chris, reincarnated from the Civil War
  • Sheldon Wolin first among equals, greatest American political philosopher, John Schaar, Hanna Pitkin, Diana O’Hehir, Denise Levertov
  • Barry Powell, translator in his generation of the Iliad and Odyssey, following Fagan, Hughes, Lattimore, Humphries, Lawrence, Pope, and Chapman in theirs
  • Isaac Bashevis Singer, Harry Golden, Rabbi Norman Feldheym who told me the sacrificed Isaac was my spirit archetype, and Isaac in Hebrew means “He will laugh.”
  • Joanne Kyger the Zen poetess, Jaime de Angulo’s daughter Guimar
  • Philip Whalen’s thank-you postcard included in a chapbook, both left for the taking at the Willits Library
  • Siegfried Sassoon’s subscription in small green characters, the faded book Judith found in an Ojai antiquary
  • The years’ long correspondence with the greatest living Renaissance scholar, Alastair Fowler, living anonymously in Edinburgh
  • Five books quoting my research about the Shakespeare canon’s shadowy Author, three acknowledgments, two dedications
  • And a finely watermarked letter from Prince Charles’s secretary, noblesse oblige, that I was “so kind to write his Grace” (about England’s Stratford bamboozle)
  • Art from Nan Trichler, Barry Eisenberg, Jon Solow, David Kiebert, William Kiebert, Dan Roberts’s photograph of a cherry sapling, through the ancient knothole of an oak, Donna d’Terra, Zohar Zaied, Shimon Romi’s Israeli calendars, Ilene Richards’s Joshua trees, Jon’s musical paradigm
  • Sara Romi Mann, Anton Lignell, Kathryn Sharpe, Sanford Dorbin, Jens Fjeld’s linoleum prints about his Lapland Arctic childhood
  • Daniel Marlin’s watercolors and paintings, Chagall, Van Gogh, the engraved impression of a Rembrandt landscape.
  • Mary Norbert Korte’s poem “Hotel California”
  • Gui de Angulo’s portrait of a lone tree in Alta California, the privileged Hopi ceremonies later painted by Mary Dumas––O beloved Berkeley neighbor
    Mary
    Who along with the then unknown Georgia O’Keeffe in their separate Model-T’s
    ranged the New Mexico wastes painting earth and sky.
    They visioned Heaven’s pantheon of greys, blues, and earthen mauves mingled by the wind.
  • The sky-blue marble given of Linda Noel, retrieved in the lint of the dryer screen on October 27, 2019.
  • Shoes from Church’s and Maxwell’s, officer’s boots, one bloodied at the ankle, and oak shoetrees from World War I, the rare John Lobb Portman’s That I’d worn to visit Judith at Howard in my best clothes with a linen handkerchief the day before our material world suffused in the valley air. Begging the question did I seek fine shoes because I had none as a child in the late Forties at Elk Ridge, Maryland?
  • The Babe Ruth signature baseball bat, the walking stave given me of Alexander and Emma, the baseball autographs of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Warren Spahn, Sandy Koufax, Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson, Hoyt Wilhelm, Joe Niekro, Stan Musial, Don Larson.
  • Letters of Sanford Dorbin, David Kiebert, Anton Lignell,
    Daniel Marlin, the friends and inspirations who corresponded
    Over the span of sixty years, receiving back my Dharma journey tales
    Hand-wrought imagery of this beastly hopeful life
  • The naturally fine writing of the children, nothing could break its transcendent healing bond
    Hearts to hands to ours––light paper made eternally strong
  • My loyal brother David, for whom it was sheer hell at the page
    But he learned to do it in our nightmare childhood years, considered an idiot, made alone
  • The letters from my mother Rose and godmother Mary Rose Locke
    Born a week apart in 1914, sisters from their first words in 1951 an age when inner selves emerge
    I vowed to keep their words forever, whole, loving, -humbly true

During a wind storm across the driveway I espied white paper there
Messages to my mother, the envelope dated 1963
The text, of an apartment on Northside we could share
It had risen in the fiery sky out of the loft, had flown upward and fell,
To be buried in the dusty native ground then washed free after the uncanny
Mystery ascension of her past tense name

Three score years’ words of caring, inscribing each to each, remain as
Silent ghostal presences now, safe in ventricles of the heart
Silent subtle rooms no sorrow can intrude

WJ Ray
January, 2020

 

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