Every day this month I’ve been writing a poem as a fundraiser for Tupelo Press.
Today’s poem is a little family history, dedicated to Jackie Dinnis, a writer and family historian. You can find Jackie over at Meeting My Family. Thanks for supporting Tupelo Press and my efforts, Jackie!
To start this poem I had to imagine Gerrit Leeuwenhoek’s mother dying, knowing she was leaving her large family behind. She knows the calamities that will befall them. Gerrit’s photograph is at the end of the post. My apologies to Dutch history and culture for any errors I’ve made. This is meant to be a fanciful imagining based on the few facts I have.
INTREPIDITY IN THE FACE OF INEVITABLE CALAMITIES
for Jackie Dinnis
“His good manners and genuine dutch intrepidity
in the fierce battles in which he participated had
won the admiration of his officers.”
Peter J. Haze
Co. E, 2d Reg’t. U.S. Inf.
What will happen to my youngest,
little Gerrit with the overlarge eyes,
after they bury me in the kerk cemetery?
Arie will keep him emptying pots
in the f5 rooms over the tavern, but
his catarrh might be something
more as it gets worse every night.
It may be that Arie too will die,
and my rugs and dishes auctioned.
The three eldest in different cities,
and the four young ones sent to
the orphanage at Neerbosch.
Teachers like scavengers pick
at the remains of my family,
beating Lambertus, Hermanus,
Adriana, and Gerrit himself.
I fear doubly for Adriana, knowing
the sort of men that the children’s home
attracts, but Gerrit acts swiftly
and with great courage and files
a report with the police. Cornelis
de Bruin is jailed, and Adriana,
Gerrit, and the others do not return.
Lambertus packs his Bijbels
and travels to America, promising
I’ll send for you to the others.
When Gerrit finally arrives to meet
his brother, they work together
printing a Dutch newspaper and
at the little market. Within a year
Gerrit hears the whistles blow
when his new country goes to war
with Spain. He drops his work
to march out to enlist. His employer
is sorry to see him go, but
impressed by his patriotism
and dignity. Gerrit is buried
twice, once in Santiago and
later near his brother in Kalamazoo.
Far from the cemetery here in
Zwammerdam, far from the hole
they have already begun to dig.
If you want to read more about Gerrit you can find him here:
Good Manners and Genuine Dutch Intrepidity
The Leeuwenhoek Connection
The Leeuwenhoek Connection: Part 2
A Beating, or The Leeuwenhoek Connection: Part 3
If you are enjoying reading these one day poems, you might like my book Doll God where the poems have had a little more time coming into the world.
If you choose to donate to support the publication of poetry books by Tupelo Press, please credit my name. I have a list of incentives here. Every dollar you donate will go toward the operation of the press, enabling it to continue publishing beautiful books that would not get picked up by large commercial publishers. You can read the daily poems, as well as the bios of this month’s poets, and donate here.