Poetry Friday: RIP Uncle Bob

A jumble of memories

Uncle Bob was not my uncle. He was my dad’s cousin, but the closest thing to family we had. He also was not a cowboy, but if you saw his slow, bow-legged saunter, his cowboy hat, his blue jeans and western snap-fasten shirts, that’s what you might think. You wouldn’t know by looking that he was the canniest dry-land farmer in the Great Plains of Eastern Colorado. He was born and raised in the part of Colorado without mountain peaks and rich soil. His landscape was wide and flat and dry. Dirt roads with thistle in the ditches marked the edges of native grassland pasture and wheat fields. Uncle Bob had a deep understanding of the land he farmed, never succumbing to “the grass is greener” mentality of irrigation. He was a dry-land farmer whose harvest depended on the land and the weather. There were good years with enough moisture, and plenty of years with dust devils and tumbleweeds before the rain came…or didn’t come. In the summer, many a cumulonimbus cloud appeared on the horizon, only to take its rain elsewhere, but perhaps also its hail. A winter blizzard was a mixed blessing of wind that carried topsoil away and brought moisture that did or didn’t cover the fields to nourish the winter wheat. Uncle Bob secured his success by collaborating with the land and the climate, but he allied with another of the vast natural resources of Eastern Colorado for his final venture — harvesting the wind with graceful lines of enormous turbines.

In my mind, it is night. I stand in the dusty yard where I played as a child, rusty tractors along the fence, the Milky Way a bright smear across the impossibly dark sky. Uncle Bob is in it all — land, sky, and wind.

This prose poem was written in 2019 using cards from “Paint Chip Poetry.” I learned yesterday that Uncle Bob passed away last weekend. I was looking forward to seeing him next week when we’re back home. We’ll drive past the home place and I’ll savor my memories.

Kat has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at her blog, Kathryn Apel: Children’s Author & Poet.

14 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: RIP Uncle Bob”

  1. I can feel the dry land and the thistles at the side of the road, and the respect and love you had for Uncle Bob. I’m sorry for your loss. May his memory live on…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a gorgeous, moving piece of your relation. You painted the scene as if before our eyes, and unfolding, perhaps there’s more to come… Especially the last three lines—so much is there, I can taste the dryness, and feel the weight of the milky way.
    Sorry to hear of your Uncle Bob’s passing, your writing will carry him on.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mary Lee, what a loss. I am sorry. Not only did you lose a family member, but we also lost someone that loved the land. Those folks are precious and a dwindling resource. I hope when you drive by, the words of your tribute poem to him come to mind and you can cast them over that land. I’m sure the land will miss him too. A beautiful poem…from paint chip poetry? I’d love to know more about that.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mary Lee, my condolences to you on the loss of Uncle Bob. You really wrote such a rich description of him here. The first time I read it I didn’t noticed the italicized words, then I saw them after you told us. I wonder if you were dealt the cards for the paint chip poetry or if you got to hand pick the ones you wanted? I would have never guessed that you had some assigned words for this prose poem.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for sharing! That curse poem is hilarious! I love how it started with your student’s funny “cheese puff in your eyes” with the paint chips. So cute!


  5. Paint Chip poetry is new to me and sounds like something fun to try with my kids. And the imagery of your poem made me feel like I was right there. I am sorry for Uncle Bob’s passing. Thanks for sharing, Mary Lee.


  6. Some powerful imagery here Mary Lee. Such an appeal to the reader’s senses and sensitivity. In your prose poem you painted so eloquently with words. This stands as a most fitting tribute your Uncle Bob.


  7. Mary Lee, I’m so sorry for the loss of Uncle Bob, and I wish you’d gotten to see him one more time. This paint chip prose poem is amazing. So jam-packed with beautiful language…and information, too! Wow.


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