Goddam Pretty

When we were leaving that life,
we were so goddam pretty, so wildly young,—
two rumpled children, parked in a scratched
blue-light mini-bus just in time for collapsing dusk–
amid popcorn and coffee,
ransacking our kid’s diapers under the murky dome-light.

You were brown in corduroy, shimmery with blond locks,
climbing to the wheel and weaving the car
thoughtlessly, pelting in and out among the beetling trucks.
The memory pleads remember me
Though now the car is locked so tight,
its door ground shut with a set brace,
that I’m not allowed even a thank-you, anymore.
That’s a given.

To look twice in that uncurtained window
would be too much–
something like death, and I will not,
if it is going to smatter of goodbyes,
or anything like that, well, no, damn it!

Yet the fiercely demanding memory
shifts the years once more however they grind and scrape,
to wherever you are,
and once again you are calming the kids as only you know how,
shaking out your shimmering hair,
taking the driver’s seat,
and turning the wheel faithlessly,
moving us away like long ago messengers to the North.

© 2015 by Andrew Glaze, from Overheard In A Drugstore

When my mother died in 2007, my sisters and I discovered a copy of this poem in her purse. It was in a zip-lock bag with other personal documents she seemed to feel were important to carry around on a daily basis. The only reason I can think of for this is that it reminded her that someone besides her children cared about her.  And the only way she could have had a copy was because my father wanted her to read it and sent it to her.

Ten years apart in age, I realized early on that theirs was a sort of Pygmalion/ My Fair Lady relationship. 

Extremely immature and desperate to escape the suffocating sheltered life she had at home, my mother had started off wanting to be a classical pianist until she was told she had the skills but not the gift. At that point she switched to acting.  She attended Birmingham Southern College and met my father in a campus choir.  They married, moved into an apartment, and she missed graduating by a single semester when she became pregnant with me. According to my father they’d originally agreed to wait a couple of years. According to her she had morning sickness every day.

Thus began a periodic pattern in my mother’s life, of blissfully unaware self-sabotage. She craved independence, but struggled more with her fear of it. Much later, in her 50’s, she decided to go back to school and finish her degree.  She got all the way up to one final course paper at Columbia University and even got an extension from the Professor.  In the end, she just couldn’t get past her own perfectionist demands and never submitted it.

My father once commented that he’d married her partly out of fear of what she might do in her desperation for freedom from her parents.  She later told me that she’d left parents, who constantly covered every mud puddle in her path to keep her safe, only to marry a man who did exactly the same thing.  She craved the freedom to make her own mistakes.

By the time I was 36, I’d already guessed that she divorced my father out of a need to establish her own identity.  The two of us had a deep conversation that summer and I asked if I was right?  She replied, “You are very perceptive” and revealed that when I was a baby. “I’d take you for walks and say we were walking all the way to New York City”.  She eventually got there with my father; it was the courage to do it on her own that she lacked. She said she felt at home the moment our Greyhound bus crossed over a bridge and she saw the Manhattan skyline.  My father said something similar many years later.

She went on to explain that when she met my stepfather it gave her a bridge that made it easier to break up with my father although her original goal was to strike out on her own.  “But then I got pregnant, and every time I got pregnant my brain went into a fog and I became helpless.” In reality, it wasn’t quite that simple. In 2004 I discovered another factor in her psyche. It was the day after a major family event when my father, mother, and siblings, were all sitting together in a garden.  My father suddenly turned to me and quietly said, “You know, I just remembered something.  When I first got together with your mother she said she wanted to have five children.  It just dawned on me that she did.”

Despite the hurt of her asking for a divorce, my father and mother maintained a good relationship and deep bond for the sake of my brother and I. Both parents attended major events and my half-siblings joined me for occasional sleepovers at my father’s place. My mother had a well-placed sense of trust in him. When her mother passed away, she called my father to tell him (he’d continued to maintain a good relationship with her parents), and he and my stepmom loaned her the money to travel South for the funeral.  Years later, in her 70’s, she decided to invest in dentures. “I wanted to be sure I looked like myself, and tried to think of who I could take with me that would remember what I originally looked like.  And then I suddenly thought of your father. So I called him and he agreed to meet me for the fitting.”  Truth be told, he was flattered she’d asked.

Her relationship with my stepfather was ill-matched, tempered by a shared interest in the theater-world, world travel, and their children. When his theater troupe permanently returned to the US, they grew distant. Although, as she explained on the night we had our in-depth conversation, “Being married gave me a sense of security, but the fact that he was never there meant I was forced to do everything for myself and made me learn to become independent.  It was by being married to someone with a totally different value system that I finally learned what my own value system was”.

By the time she was 55, all five of her children had gown and she was an empty-nester.  After four years of looking after her aging father in Alabama, she longed to return “home” and would call to see how my wedding plans were going.  One night after we hung up, it occurred to me that she could live with me for free until then, look for a job, save some money, and take over my inexpensive Manhattan apartment when I joined my future husband in Denver. She arrived on a Saturday night three weeks later, went for a walk, noticed a “Help Wanted” sign at a Thrift Shop 3 blocks away, and was hired on Monday.

She was the happiest I had ever seen her. With some amount of shock I remember realizing, “My mother, at the age of 55, is now reaching a level of maturity, self-confidence, and independence that I attained in my late 20’s.” I suddenly felt like a wise scholar observing a student. That was the moment when I forgave any resentment I’d had about the divorce. Given her freedom, she became a patient and non-judgmental sounding board for the five of us. She also went on to become a wonderful grandmother to her six grandchildren.

The ironic thing is, by the time she died, she’d become interested in writing, was taking courses for it, and was writing a book – although she struggled to find a satisfactory ending for the plot. An avid reader, her apartment living room resembled a library, and she loved attending theater performances.  She even had a small record player and the last album she listened to was the same “Little Abner” original Broadway cast musical that she’d played over and over again when I was 8 years old.  She’d come full circle back to the interests that she shared with my father.  The difference was, this time it was on her own terms.

—-E. Glaze

Photos were taken by Peggy Avadon. I was told she was a cousin of Richard. One of the summer stock actors knew her
Photo by Peggy Avadon, 1960.

1951
Dorothy Elliott (Glaze) Shari, in 1951, with Elizabeth Glaze. Photo by Andrew Glaze.
Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

620475_4263266189434_2049550616_o
With her three daughters on a rooftop in Manhattan in 1976.
Photo © by Marcia Caro,

 

Chocolate Pie

Fred’s great chocolate pie
sat on the table at noon–
while outside the Spring sun dazzled, leapt,
and the Germans marched into Austria.

On the radio came shouts, in a hoarse, hysterical voice,
the future jangled their wits like a telephone.
Our appointed war was waiting for us outside, cocking its thumb.

“Arma virumque cano,” says Virgil,
Dr. Cutt snakes out the words with a dry, ironic, bite,
saying, “This is the war
your generation is set up to perish for,
because my own was an idiot,
and savors itself with the gruel of madness.

The legend says
if you must plant hatred, stay on guard
and lop the heads off the warriors
springing from the ground.
Do it again and again!
But this time, for a change, stay home.”

It was certainly not for lack of battlegrounds.
We’ve plenty of those at hand.
Not ten miles away, at Stones River,
Generals Rosecrans and Bragg
waltzed one another a half turn
about the Murfreesboro Pike.
You can picnic among the twenty five thousand dead.

At Spring Hill, Patrick Cleburne, “bravest of the brave”
let Schofield’s Yankees slip through.
And the next day, under the scatter-shot of John Hood’s rage
he charged himself to death with five other rebel generals.
They lay in a row on the Carlton House porch
fury assuaged.

Down the Nashville Pike came
General Thomas racketing through,
flogging his horse,
yelling across the clatter
‘Didn’t we drive ’em though? Didn’t we drive ’em!”
And Forrest’s horse lagged to guard the retreat.

Grandpa lived in the saddle for days
near the Surgeon’s wagon taking out his surgical kit
to patch the few come out alive,
subsiding into Alabama.

That, was our war.
What did we know about motorized guns on wheels,
or hawks-foot bombers diving out of the sun?

© Andrew Glaze 2015, from Overheard In A Drugstore

 WW2 Air pilot song:
“I wanted wings, ‘til I got the god damn things,
now I don’t want them anymore.
They say air combats called romance, but it makes me wet my pants,
I’m not a fighter I have learned.
For I’d rather be a bellhop
than a flyer on a flattop
with my hand around a bottle
not around a goddamned throttle,
Buster, I wanted wings ‘til I go the god damn things,
now I don’t want them anymore.”

Despite being a non-flying Communications Officer with the Army Air Corps, my father had this catchy WW2 song embedded in his brain for the rest of his life. The version above is the one he occasionally sang when I was growing up.

During the war, he was assigned to the air base on Anglesey Island, a rural island off the coast of North Wales in the UK.  Far from the battles in Europe, he found life there quite boring, and wished he were closer to the action. Only later did he realize how lucky he’d been. My father was not fond of his military experience, and resisted taking advantage of any of the benefits offered to Veterans. Ironically, 60+ years after his island experience, Prince William and Kate Middleton moved to Anglesey as newlyweds when William began work at the same air base as a Search and Rescue Helicopter Pilot for the Royal Air Force.  I think the slow pace was exactly the break from royal life that they’d both hoped for and they stayed for 3 cherished years.

In case you haven’t figured it out, this poem is written from the perspective of my father in his late teens when he was a High School student at The Webb School in Tennessee. A prep-boarding school for boys that was 53 miles South of Nashville, my father loved his time there because, “they encouraged independence and had an honor system, which was unlike any other school at that time”.  His teacher, Dr. Cutt, clearly made a positive impression. Recently, I came across an on-line memo about the history of the Webb School Language Department. It said, Dr. Cutt, taught 4th Latin – Virgil, 6 or 8 students.” It also states that he taught Greek.  Somehow, even in his wildest dreams. I doubt that Dr. Cutt ever expected to be immortalized, quoting Virgil, in a future poem by one of his students.  And yet here he is doing exactly that. The advice to “stay home this time”, is probably accurate . My father had a habit of stockpiling verbal nuggets in his brain for future use.

Career-wise, Latin proved to be useful, both for my father’s writing, and to accomplish his translations of Spanish poets like Pablo Neruda. However, on the family side, there was one aspect of his Latin training that drove my brother and I crazy.  We had the same problem with our mother, because she also studied Latin in High School. It started when we became old enough to enjoy playing the game “Dictionary”. In order to do so, one person has to select a word nobody else knows the meaning of, while everyone else invents a definition to fool the other players. Our problem was that 95% of the time, our parents used Latin derivations to figure out the words we suggested and it usually took 10 minutes to find an unfamiliar option.  My brother eventually solved the problem with a book titled Obscure, Unusual and Preposterous Words, and even that wasn’t 100% perfect.  It’s worth noting that, when playing Dictionary, my brother’s goal was never to make up realistic sounding meanings for the dictionary words and score points.  He inherited our father’s sense of the ridiculous and just wanted to make everybody laugh. I still remember an afternoon when the two of us played Dictionary with friends, and my brother’s definition of Polyarchy was, “The arc formed by a parrot when thrown from a bridge in Mandarin China.”

His time at boarding school seems to have given our father a keen understanding of where major battles took place in the area.  His parents were from Elkton and Pulaski, which are slightly to the West of Nashville. At the time of the Civil War, it’s hard to know if the Glaze family agreed with the rebel cause or not, but given their geographic location and the fact that skirmishes were taking place all around them, abstaining wasn’t much of an option.  At the time the war broke out, my father’s grandfather had completed exactly one year of apprenticeship with a local doctor, and one course of lectures at the University of Nashville Medical School.  When the Confederate Military Medical Unit called, the battlefield became his on-the-fly arena of higher education. He genuinely was a doctor on horseback. Given a choice between fighting at the front and tending to the wounded in the back, it was certainly the safer position to be in. Five years after the war ended, in 1874, he finally returned to Medical School in Nashville and officially graduated a year later. He set up a private practice in Elkton, married, and started a family.  When his first wife died he married the local school teacher. Among the family there are two genetic traits we all hope to avoid. One is large ears that poke out on either side (“Grannie Glaze ears”) and the other is a beak nose (“Grannie Glaze nose”). I once asked, “Okay, so if this lady had huge ears and a beak nose, how on earth did she manage to attract a husband, much less a Doctor?”  My father’s reply was logical, “He was a widower and a working doctor with several children. He was educated and more sophisticated than most locals; she was an educated school teacher and possibly one of the few single women in Elkton.”  They proceeded to have additional children. He was actually the original Andrew L. Glaze, although his middle name was “Lewis”.  Family rumor has it that when his school teacher wife had their first son, she was a bit of a culture snob, and so his son and grandson (my father) were named “Andrew Louis Glaze”.  

By the way, if you’ve never heard of the University of Nashville Medical School, it’s because it became the origin of Vanderbilt Medical School. My father’s father later studied medicine there. He went the more conventional route, and, lacking the necessity of becoming a battlefield surgeon, chose Dermatology.

—E. Glaze

NiZUMA aVE 1938 darkenedAndrew Louis Glaze Jr. (the poet and writer) at age 18 in 1938. The photo was taken on a break from Webb School, on a visit home in Birmingham, Alabama.
Photo is property of the Andrew L. Glaze Estate.

Dr. Thomas Cutt
My father’s beloved teacher, Dr. Thomas Cutt, who was the Latin and Greek teacher at Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. I am guessing the lady on the left was his wife. It looks like it must’ve been a hot weekend summer day, and everybody was going casual.
Photo by Andrew L. Glaze, property of the Andrew L. Glaze Estate.

Andrew L. Glaze as an Army Air Corps Communications Officer. 1942.
Photo is property of the Andrew L. Glaze Estate.

Two poems about poetry and writing that aren’t just about poetry and writing.

OLD POET

Clouds don’t come at him any more
seething inside with green fire, nor
does the skin of lovers often proclaim,
like a trumpet, fearful surprises.
And where are the river-roads that once he attended,
the quarrels that whistled around him like bullets,
the steaming tracks that swept him along come midnight
with the gift of a single mountain lantern?

Wherefrom are the words that used to hurt,
that hurt now twice as often,–
and where are the friends he loved enough to wish
he might give them a bit of his time on earth.
Also, old man, why can’t left encounter right
any more for a battle?
And where are the rattling snare drums of daylight?

Why do there not canter up these days
poems that stamp the hoof,
and offer the bridle, so he must clamber top-side
the-saddle, and set himself to thunder off,
not caring to guess where the gallop goes,
or by what fork of the road!
or by what fork of the road !

© Andrew Glaze 2015,  from Overheard In A Drugstore
“Old Poet” read by Alabama poet Irene Latham:

FISHERMEN

Out trolling the banks–the swirling rivers–the thump of the creel–
the fishermen seek a logical colloquy of wildlife and loaves
with shining words.
Then once in a while,
they watch their talismans over brutishness and power
go down, blighted by the savagery of fact.

As the civil world presses agreeably on
in its ramping, murderous way,
they come to be swept off  like us all,
and forced to mouth the blameless blame.

Swearing to lies, they’ll  be wasted in the squalor,
but, after the cycles have inched about
another click,
with luck,
they’ll cautiously hoist themselves
from out of the caves of hiding,
and once more casting to catch the shining words,
hang them like silver mornings in the sun.

© Andrew Glaze 2015, from Overheard In a Drugstore

For my father, being a Writer and Poet meant a lifetime struggle with perfectionism.

How do I know this?
Both of these poems were written sometime before 1997, because both of them were in a  manuscript titled Carnal Blessings that became a finalist for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize in 1997.  A year later my father changed the title to Overheard In A Drugstore, and continued his lifelong process of tweaking both the poems and the table of contents.  He frequently spent years perfecting poems until he was happy with them.  Unpublished ones he’d put in a drawer to review a few weeks, months, or even decades later.  I personally know of two poems that were published in early books of his, that he altered before they were re-published in later books. AND, after he died, when I went through his personal copies of his own poetry books, I found small edits he’d made in pencil to a few of his already published and well known poems.  In some cases I agreed, and in others I didn’t, but that’ll just be our little secret.

“OLD POET”, as I interpret it, reflects on growing older and, judging by the last two lines, is a literal nod to Robert Frost.  Frost died at age 88 in 1963, which means that he was in his late ’60’s when my 18-year-old father first knew him at Harvard, and in his ’70’s in 1946 and ’48, when my father worked with him as part of the staff at the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference.  By 1997, when “Old Poet” was submitted to the TS Eliot Prize as part of the Carnal Blessings manuscript, my father was age 77.  I think he was feeling a combination of sentiment, admiration, loss, empathy, and camaraderie when he wrote this poem.
(If you want to learn more about Robert Frost and my father, read the poem, “Mr. Frost” from a previous post).

“Fishermen”, was initially surprising to me, because the ONLY time I’ve ever seen evidence that my father even so much as touched a fishing rod is a photo from the early 1950’s.  But then when you really read the poem, it becomes clear that it’s not really about fishing for aquatic creatures at all.  To a partial extent I think it’s about fishing for the right word, enduring as a writer through the ups and downs of popularity, and surviving harsh poetry critics from a “boys club” you aren’t part of.  However, when you pay attention to some of his allusions, and think about his background, suddenly the word “fishing” suggests a potentially deeper meaning.  Assigned to Europe as a WW2 Airforce Communications Officer, my father was undoubtedly hyper aware of Hitler’s propaganda machine and the efforts of the European Resistance to counter it. He then became a reporter in Birmingham, Alabama, during the dawn of Civil Rights demonstrations where his newspaper boldly published descriptions of brutal police attacks on peaceful protesters.  At the same time, Senator McCarthy was busy adding writers to his increasingly long black list of accused “Communists”.  It wasn’t until the respected TV journalist Edward R. Morrow verbally attacked him that the public came out of their 4-year trance and “McCarthyism” ended.  Ten years later my father was no longer a reporter, but avidly followed the “Watergate” investigative reporting that led to President Nixon’s resignation.

I think this poem is my father’s personal tribute to the writers who keep fishing for the right words, fishing for success on their own terms, and fishing for the truth , no matter how hard it might be.

IMG_20141216_0036
Andrew Glaze at Panama City Beach, Florida, early 1950’s.  The only time I have ever seen my father hold a fishing rod of any kind, and while wearing loafers!

E. Glaze