Art of Poetry’s Betty O’Hearn reads her work about the Tom Devlin photograph that inspired her at the June 18 Art of Poetry event at Hickory Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of Roger and Ginny Sanford.
after “Museum Staircase” by Tom Devlin
There was a dream of a winding staircase,
each step climbed was a look at my past life.
An essay of birth, childhood, adolescence,
transport to adulthood, loss of
parents, birth of my son, my loves and those
lost, the joys of grandchildren, my career
experiences, winding down into my present.
One by one I walked a step,
turning the pages of my life, reliving it all.
My mother told me my birth was easy.
Childhood was filled with a home of alcoholics.
Summers on the NJ beach and tan lines.
My first love Joe in my teens, when
he came to the door and I was in curlers.
Failed marriages but with lessons learned.
Ancestors watched as I climbed, waving flags.
I saw my father die at forty-six.
The knife sticking into my back from labor pains.
Watching my mother removing the warmth
of a deathbed over two weeks.
The steps go on bringing such clear
remembrance of my life. Each foot
raised was a chapbook taking me
into flashbacks of memories.
Each grandchild with their differences and
Every city I ever lived with many friends
I still connect with.
Travel to eight countries.
The isolation of training, the sounds of
Arabic, Pashtu, guns and screams.
Training men for wars I did not believe in.
When I reached the stop of the staircase,
I witnessed the writing on blank pages of
a book covered in brocade with a quill pen.
It was writing the rest of my life.