tradition 31909

March 19, 2009

Keeping with tradition and habits from before his father’s father,
he wound the tall hall clock,
Knowing not what would last past its last dull thudding chimes
Knowing not what would last past its dried cracked exterior
Knowing not what would last past its final weary strokes.

Keeping with tradition and habits long not his own
he fed himself
and dressed himself
and bathed himself
There were flowers in his garden that needed tending
and he did that too.

Keeping with tradition in a land where tradition is a fading sunset
he wrote a letter to a friend
and left the porch light on until thirty minutes past dusk
And, there, in his recliner where he watched the news
on a dilapidated but functional UHF color box
He drifted into a nap like everyone these days drifts into
the sleep of the old, the tired, the life-wary.

Unlocked doors were his unmaking
as he always remembered to lock them, but
his memory is not what it used to
And here, in the night, it was tradition to do things
you don’t tell your father’s father about.

So the clock was destroyed
So the color box was destroyed
So the flowers were mangled
So his writing desk was turned over
the porch light punched out with a clothed fist.
And there, in the night, where it is tradition to have malice
he drew his last old breath
And never worried about the clock again.

From here, it is tradition to tell the end
but there isn’t one
For somewhere, down the block, where an old woman sits
stroking her cats between taped copies of her favorite daytime stories
The same story unfolds
And here, in the night, it is tradition to leave much unknown
for knowledge is power and your unmaking.

(submitted to Read.Write.Poem.)



  1. glad you came by read write poem to post! i like how this repeats — physically representing how tradition works.

  2. tradition….hmm works sometimes…..sometimes not….interesting read

  3. Wow, this is a very powerful poem. I agree with Carolee on the effectiveness the repetition. It set up my expectations so that when the pivot came it _pulled_ me along. The final stanza and especially the final two lines really pay off, by not coming to some neat conclusion. Very well done, thank you for sharing it!

  4. Agreed with throwshiswords – VERY powerful and thought-provoking.

  5. I like how this moves slowly towards danger and decay. Unexpected. This was a very good read.

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