Carol Park grew up in Redwood City, and though her specific jobs have ranged, they’ve always included words, teaching and nurturing of people. Six of her adult life took place in Japan where she mothered two young children, taught ESL, and learned much from Japanese friends. After the kids grew up, she earned her Masters in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific and devoted time to fiction and poetry. Find her poems in SLANT, Minerva Rising, Black Fox Literary Review, and several anthologies. She’s currently finishing a novel set in Tokyo. Read her fiction at carolpark.us.
Poem on Belonging
OF OKLAHOMA AND BAVARIA
My parents were born to farmers. My mom’s sole toy a ball in Delhi, Oklahoma. She picked cotton along with her mother and brothers. Her father, postman and preacher, rode in 1919 and never returned. Probably crossing a river or the epidemic of flu overwhelmed him. Mom’s parents sharecropped. Dad’s folks owned their land. Still, snow lay atop his bed of a morning—that’s what he often said— and told of trekking to school with a hole in his shoe. He looked to education for his salvation. WWII took the young couple east. Later they went west. Visalia, California, my birthplace, but, from year two to eighteen, in Redwood City was my school and play. Dad taught at Cañada college. On days off, he mowed the lawn, pruned trees or harvested plums & apricots. I picked the fallen, and cut fruit for canning for Mom. Weekly I scrubbed the kitchen floor on my knees. I got a quarter! A hose for the car, broom for the porch, vacuuming twice a week, changing sheets weekly—cleaning an all-day, mother and daughters, Saturday occupation. Some fastidious ways I’ve kept, others I’ve dropped. Family fun back then? Swimming, camping, or kin. Dining out, fast food or movies rare treats. Trips to grandfolks in LA many a time—Disneyland once. But I smiled big when Grandpa danced the jig. Just past thirty, I kissed and wed a Honolulu man (Korean descent). Teaching my passion, tech my man’s. Scent of cookies & bread enlivened our home—like mom’s— and nurture of apricots, camelias and geraniums. My husband and I played Uno with our kids. We four ran from waves oceanside & walked under oaks. Dipped in Yosemite’s rivers and hiked its granite mountains. Kids gone, I traveled to where window sills boast boxes of geraniums, colored garnet and rose. Bavaria! German names ripe on my family tree. Six generations ago my kin wagered on more land & liberty, and boarded boats to a new continent. Muller, Blumb, Zwerger, and Jager— forebearers to my Yaeger. I searched the German south for tiny Apfeldorf—there! Scratched on a tombstone Muller, a familial name. Did a kinsman here write stories, or of fears and aches? Like what I found in Bavaria, my parents kept pristine yards but they decried the amber fizz in stein or tall glass— teetotalers of Baptist persuasion. Me? I’ve slid to Episcopalian liberalities. I explored the castle that King Ludwig of Bavaria built, and found his son Crown Prince Rupert infuriated Hitler, The aspiring demagogue promised restoration of Bavarian monarchy through his Munich Beer Hall Coup. Rupert refused such kingship. Illicit force he rejected. Police put down stormtroopers and Hitler went to prison—out a year later. Rupert named him insane and strived to halt the conniver’s ascendance. In a decade plus though Hitler’s powers grew large, and he seized Rupert’s house. He escaped to Italy. Did Florentines grow geraniums? Blooms of endurance and hope? Rupert died at age 75, a match to the year I was born. My kin of the Golden State embrace lies and vote for demagogue politics. Who parts from their ancestry? Not me. When I waved adieu to the family camp, new and kinder kin came round me. Now in light as warm as Bavarian summer, I tend geraniums & trees and honor Rupert.
Copyright © 2022 by Carol Park. Used with permission of the author.