Sunday, June 25, 2023

On leaving a body of writings to one's descendants

The above brief article is an interesting WIRED magazine tale.  An irascible (English?) Professor died at age 90 leaving an enormous body of his writings, apparently all of which were unpublished.  He wanted his daughter to preserve them in some way and she did, in an internet archive that comprised seven gigabytes.  

The irascible professor wrote a lot of poetry throughout his life, apparently trying to publish it early on and when he was unsuccessful in that, declared that “it was their loss” and no longer tried to publish, but continued writing.  Did he think that he might be “discovered” at some future date?  There have been notable such discoveries in literary history which he would surely have been aware of.

The above tale does resemble mine to some degree.  I went through a Bachelor’s degree and halfway through a Masters degree before contenting myself to a life in Engineering.  But I wasn’t utterly content in that field, however competent I might have been.  I continued to write poetry.  For several years I worked (Engineering work) with Lee Griffith who accomplished a Masters Degree in English from Duke University.  His specialty had been, when he still thought he might ultimately become a Professor of English Literature, Poetic Criticism.  Thus, I would regularly write and he would regularly criticize, using the latest criticism from Duke at the time. And so I was encouraged to keep on writing.  Occasionally I would send something off, not so much wanting to publish as doing what was expected.  Eventually, Lee was caught in a layoff and went someplace else in aerospace to work, but I kept on writing.

Along with the poetry, I’ve written the occasional essay, and numerous letters which might be of interest to my descendants.  And when I think of having my writings preserved, along the lines of the aforementioned cantankerous English Professor, it isn’t with a few, or much of one, of being eventually recognized.  I have had a number of interests over the years and one of them has been genealogy.  My great-grandfather on my father’s side was Schuyler V. Helm, who lived from 1834 to 1882.  He fought in the American Civil War on the side of the North as an engineer (an interesting coincidence in that I was born exactly 100 years after he was and worked in aerospace as an engineer).  I acquired his military records but there was nothing personal in them.  At the end of the war, he was well thought of and was promoted from sergeant (another coincidence.  I was a sergeant in the USMC) to lieutenant, which meant that he could have stayed in had he wanted to, but he took his severance pay, and bought a plot of land in “Indian Country” in what is today Iowa.  I speculate that he was wounded in the way in that he didn’t live very long, only 48 years. (Although another thread has him being born in 1841 and dying in 1904 in South Dakota which death location has the advantage of being where my grandmother, Bertha Freeman, had family which she occasionally visited when I was small, but Schuyler’s war records support the dates I mentioned.)  All of which is to say, if one of my own descendants of descendant of a friend, or related to my second wife, expressed an interest in whom I was, there would be a cache of information in a cloud some place referenced in or its like.  


Saturday, June 3, 2023

Looking elsewhere

I’d never seen that look 

Despite seeing her on every

Page, the thinking of everyone

Long dead, whatever living

On the edge might mean --

Out on the fringe of what

Was known, what suspected.

Great swirls of yellow

And orange, a veil

I slithered past and there

Beside me the latest book

I was reading, she stood

Staring down at hands that

Had once been graceful 

And fine but were now 

Gnarled from grasping

More life for my sake.

She turned with a smile

That should have persuaded

Me she was drowning

In agony’s seas.



“One man down,” I 

Fell, little thoughts

Grasping for the half-out

Woman I struggled to

Dream back in.  Saddened

By my inability, she

Longed, I felt for

A resumption of our

Striving to finish

The project we’d begun.

We rolled around

In our presumptive

Belief that we’d have 

Time to exercise

Our hearts, our

Resolutions, with just

A few more minutes

Of productive dreaming.

I looked for her down

Each aisle, but she was

No longer in the store.

Valedictive Dream

I had a dream upon

Learning she was ill.

I’d give of myself

During whatever

Her future held,

And, toward the end,

She said, “well done.”

Whatever joy felt

From her regard

Was splashed like

Blood upon the grail.

Her hands not mine

Were nailed upon

The tangibility 

Of her pain.  She

Roiled within its throes.

No help remained.

She went beyond her 

Strength seeing me

Unwilling to let her go,

And bled out on the way.