Leaving a Mark

SudokuMy daddy would have loved Sudoku. He would have disappeared into his back bedroom and spent hours making careful markings with the freshly sharpened #2 pencils pilfered from his job at the Naval Base or REA. He always described himself as a pencil pusher.

His Sudoku’s would have been painstakingly constructed – the squares filled with carefully formed numerals. He prided himself on his distinctive handwriting. I emulated it. I still form my “2’s” the way he did.

The only marks left to remember him now are those inscribed on his tombstone. Virginius Gorman Clarke.  Born July 19, 1923 – Died June 5, 1991. He left no writing behind. No one saved the endless crossword puzzles he completed. Or the ledgers he kept for his employers. He never wrote letters. He read. Usually trashy paperbacks, the Virginian Pilot and the Norfolk Ledger Dispatch.

He was marked with tattoos. One on each arm. They were beautiful. I remember the colors but my memory of the designs has been confused by all the tattoos I’ve seen. Was there really a MOTHER on one arm and a ROSE on the other or is that just a false memory?

 Is my memory of him false? He was just a shadow in a back room for most of my childhood. He retreated there to escape my mother’s temper just as I retreated to my tiny room pretending to do homework. I really scribbled poetry on the pages of my loose leaf notebook

A couple of my poems were printed in the school literary magazine – the YAWP. The teacher-advisor was disturbed by the dark nature of my writing. Especially the one I wrote from the point of view of a prisoner resigned to a life in a cell. Was I thinking about my father or myself?

“And so you take my world away and lock me in this cage.

Around me now it’s night not day.

My sun’s not gold, it’s beige.

A punishment I don’t deserve. A penance I don’t need.

Imprisoned now, you serve me malice with spoiled meat.

I will not pray. I will not kneel. Why should I stoop to lie?

Alone I’ll find true happiness.

The price I’ll pay is loneliness.”

I named the poem “Satori”.  An odd poem for a 15 year old. Odd or not, from the beginning I left my mark. Markings left behind to show that I lived. Sandcastles. Journals. Poems. Letters. Stories. Novels. Blogs. I leave breadcrumbs. I also fill Sudoku books with careful drawn numerals. I am, in many ways like my father. But I have no tattoos.

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2 Comments

Filed under Breadcrumbs, Nonfiction

2 responses to “Leaving a Mark

  1. ‘My sun’s not gold, it’s beige.’

    Starting somewhere. I don’t understand Sudoku, i’m sure it’s simple, my daughter has tried to explain it to me, but i just don’t get it. I’m not a maths person i guess.

    Its interesting when we look back on things we have written, how they were just a poem back when they were written, but later on they are a piece of a puzzle, hindsight is a window to ourselves. The loneliness is tangible in your poem, i know because i felt the words. Of course everything i try to explain lately ends up with me not being happy with it.

    So let me say this instead: i felt your poem because it echoes where i was at the same age, i felt it because my father was abusive and had a vile temper, much like your mother. One of my rare happy memories of him, is when he would let me help him do crosswords. I felt it because i am him in some ways. I felt it because my stepdad who i adored, replaced my father and gave me more than i could ever have imagined, and i miss him. I felt your poem because he had old navy tattoos on his arms.

    What i leave behind are perhaps birdseeds, pecked and eaten by the birds of life. I see a trail of a lot of poetry, lots of pain, lots of letters and art and emails and doodles and a stack of colourful conversations, all to gratify my need for expression.

    But what i want to leave behind, is an ocean of love for when people remember me, they will feel the waves of it and remember that i loved them, deeply.

    Forgive if i have scattered too many seeds, i loved your poem Brenda.

    ~lily

    • brendamantz

      Lily — There is nothing in the world more precious than to be read and understood — unless it is to be remembered. I’m so happy that I helped you remember your stepfather.

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