August – Stanza 31 – Finit

I must say this has been an eye-opening month for me. I had the opportunity to delve a bit deeper into the names and faces that make up my family tree…and I even discovered a few new characters along the way.

Thanks to Jane Dougherty who inspired this month’s pem a day exercise. What we have below is more of an epic poem. Not sure if it makes any sense altogether, but then again, I suppose it makes perfect sense. It is reflective of me, a patchwork quilt made up of my ancestors and the times in which I live. Somehow it all works, because after all, here I am. Thanks for taking this journey with me. The story continues…

first to last, this August exercise in verse
reminds me I’m the sum of many parts
of sinners, saints, commoners and royalty,
generations come and gone, of my mortality,
legends of yore, centuries born, and then there’s me


August in Stanzas

August Gregorious, father
of my father’s father’s father left
Sweden’s shore, Amerika bound decades
before the harbor maiden raised her beacon
to refugees and immigrants seeking a dream

a dream of valkyries, sinners, saints,
pilgrims, paupers, royalty, generations
come and gone, sparks of light,
however brief, whispering tales from
where I hail, as I lay sound asleep

asleep, in graves, silent shuttered
vaults, eroded epitaphs, markers where
lay the bones, worm-stripped bare, no trace
but for their surnames penned on census
rolls, proof that they existed once 

once upon a time lived a viking maiden fair,
princess, Kievan queen, woman scorned, a saint,
who settled scores, who buried men alive,
set flocks affire, razed a town, my dear great
grandma, Olga, was the baddest fox around

around the time when separatists sought freedom
from the crown, a ship, the Mayflower, set sail across
the ocean blue, amongst its passengers, a girl named Mary,
of renown, so claimed, the first to step on Plymouth’s rocky shore

shore along the Biscay Bay in olde Aquitaine,
came first of many troubadours, Guillaume
was his name, a roving love philanderer
crusader, duke and count but his true call,
his legacy, the poems and songs he penned

penned in history’s tomes the story of a clan
who’s roots trace back to greatness, to the loins
of Charlemagne; a certain noble lineage
Trowbridge, one such name, of  Thomas and
Elizabeth, great grands from whence I came

came on horseback through the town, they say, naked
as the day that she was born, a selfless act, the debt she paid
to lift the tolls her husband waged on townsfolk, how she
pitied them, Lady Godgifu, whilst they hid, their windows shut
but for a tailor so called Thomas who rued his choice to peep

peep beneath Kyffhäuser hills where Barbarossa
makes his bed, alive for centuries, not dead
he waits to serve his countrymen, to unify
them once again, with ravens, circling
‘round his lair and flowing locks of ruddy hair

hair of red, and a rotten tooth of blue
Harald son of Gorm the Old built a bridge or two
one the oldest, longest known in Scandinavia’s
Ravning meadow; the other ‘tween Danes
and Norse; hence ended by his bastard son, poor fellow

fellow genealogists would certainly agree
that finding distant relatives, a generation,
maybe two, or if you’re lucky, three’s a testament
that most of us will fade into obscurity, i must
admit a lucky thread runs through my family tree

tree strong, sure, with roots meandering deep
elusive broken chains, some stories silenced
ever undisturbed to sleep between the lines
of history’s pages, glimmers only glimpsed
by those remembering, distant reminiscing kin

kin can be elusive, notorious in fact with
legacies to be recalled by generations hence
more curious than how they lived, accounts
of how they died, some of causes natural
while others met the sword midst battle cries

cries of horror surely wailed at William’s
messy burial beneath Abbaye aux Hommes,
his tomb, ‘twas found to be too small to hold
his corpse’s expanding girth; so ensued a gruesome
scene…they forced him in, until he burst

burst forth in salutations for these pious few of note
grace, humility, compassion stirred their hearts and
souls; some were royal born, some were royal wed,
a full life they all lived then to the nunnery they fled
sainted, miracles post-death, their legacies are legend

legend has it, have you heard, so they say…
from inconceivable to the absurd, tales
of the notorious evolve from voice to page
fantastical, believe it or nots, boring history
rewritten, embellished, ne’er to be forgot

forgotten? I think not! with these great monikers…
Offa, Wermund, Ermingarde, Gruffydd, Tilka, Rhys,
Ingilrat, Theobald, Helga, Poppa, Cleph,
Dode, Thibault, Ludmilla, just to name a few
Tom’s, Dick’s and Mary’s, though plain Jane, they’re in there too

too many links on this tree fade, obscure
with nary a flicker of those who’ve gone before
the only living proof of their existence,
their progeny, who share their dna, who’ll likewise
live and die, no answer for the age-old question…”why?”

why do I have eyes of blue and curly golden locks
what mystery meld of genes informs my flesh and blood
am I just the sum of kin who’ve lived and died before
wondering what makes me, me, and makes you, you
our histories’ hold a glimpse, hard to ignore

ignore the past and risk repeating it they say
the past is good well but I’m distracted on this day
one day i know i’ll be a fleeting memory
to this bundle in my arms,  we call her Ashby Quinn
a good old family name, and so a life begins

begins the life of Isabel, an heiress, good and fair and wise
wedded at age seventeen, King Henry’s ward, arranged
to William, a knight’s templar with no land to call his own
a power couple of their time, who made Old Ross their home
reviving castle Kilkenny, on River Nore, three towers

towers of history? Nay, they hardly made a blip
settling in Rutland, Mass, the center of the state
a preacher, he, a wife, who bore a strapping brood of nine
while revolutionary battles raged, a great awakening time
when Daniel lived with Sarah, my grand parents, eight great

great is the legend of Leudwinus, Sainted, Count of Treves
when young, wedded to Willigard, of children, they had three
a miracle occurred, they  say, while nappng on a hunt was he
an eagle spread it’s massive wings, providing him with shade
hence, on that spot, built he, a monastery to live his final days

days spent keeping house and raising her large brood
nine of them in all, ‘twas young Hannah’s lot in life
married at eighteen, known as Cotton Tower’s wife
the year was 1816 when summer went on strike
their farm likely covered midsummer with snow and ice

ice and fire don’t mix anymore than church and state
as learned by my great grandpa, Captain Anthony
the church held sway in Hingham, Mass
his commission challenged, led to excommunication
‘twas a dark divided time in this young nation

nation against nation, a story oft’ repeated
humanity’s a mean, contentious breed driven
by more than basic need, avarice and greed
power is a vile, demanding mistress, irresistible
to those who dare dip from her shallow well 

well-spring of life, informing cells that make me, me
eyes of blue, hair, curly blond, pale skin easily burned
my ancestors, from northern climes they came, Vikings,
Ottar, Eystein, Egil, Aun, their names, barbarians
from icy shores, the Nordic Swedes and Danes

Danes had nothing on my great grand Fredegund
a vile, vicious mistress determined to be queen
convinced King Chilperic to kill his sleeping wife
even her own daughter suffered from her jealousy
but her bitterest arch rival was, in fact, a Valkyrie 

Valkyrie, Brunhilda, from my many branch-ed tree
ultimately met her end by Fredegund’s own son
40 years of vengeance, in the end, nobody won
evil can’t sustain a never-ending terror reign
eventually the good will find a way to win again

again I am surprised to find more royalty
no less surprised than my great grand, Henry
who learned he would be king while hunting
fowl and thought it was absurd when he was told
Henry the Fowler, King, Germany’s first 

first to last, this August exercise in verse
reminds me I’m the sum of many parts
of sinners, saints, commoners and royalty,
generations come and gone, of my mortality,
legends of yore, centuries born, and then there’s me


13 responses to “August – Stanza 31 – Finit

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