Life With Horace

poetry & essays


How is it?

How is it
on the mountain, friend,
your spirit free
to roam the peaks
while others only visit,
awed by your home?

Can you see
the wonders that
your children are,
carrying you forward,
best parts mostly,
through life’s flow?

Do you know
I miss you still,
regrets dimmed,
a mind’s eye memory
of boundless energy,
on the night we met?

Is that you
beside me in the woods,
silent escort through
the marshes, dogs in hand,
then safely home,
here for the asking?


For Mike, whose birthday was today. the photo is of Mount Lafayette, where his ashes rest.


clear sailing

there is no more fog
and I am soaring
through these brilliant stars
above an open sea,
memory reclaimed at last.
even as I leave you,
going on alone for now,
winglike glowing tendrils
wrap me in their light
and warmth, strands
of our shared time
that can never break.

there will always be
a part of me alive,
held in your
hearts, or seen
among the trees
joy fanned by wagging dogs,
an artist’s brush,
the feel of things well built,
soil deep tilled,
good stories told,
the pop of corks,
sure handed trimming
of a wind filled sail,
upright honor, honesty,
deep rooted, long felt love.

even as the world around me
faded for a time,
and I seemed lost,
a quiet spark lived
in my soul, fanned
by the breath of love,
my anchor in this final storm,
and in its light
I knew you all.

for William Eastman Janes, a cherished friend who set sail and left us this morning. crabtown won’t be the same without you Bill. vaya con dios.

my daughter with Eddie


Lioness still

You think you know,
what you will feel,
but no it is impossible
the first time,
even with a child
you carry, part of you.
The fierce love comes
in waves of tenderness
letting down like milk
and never stops.
With each new step
from stone to anchored stone
across life’s flow,
strength to strength, joy to joy,
my heart follows, watching,
knowing only pride
as she runs on, lioness also,
my firstborn.

For my daughter, on her birthday


The Arrival

She didn’t even have to knock.
The gates were open, waiting
for her, pearled, radiating starlight.
So she walked right through,
upright, head high, heart open,
pain and frailty left behind,
sure that she would soon be
with those she loved
already there.

She stopped to listen then, hearing
song and music, and as she did
an angel joined her, passing hand
in hand into a place she could
never have imagined, but
felt she’d always known.
Sunrays and moonlight shining together,
Imagine that, she thought.

On they went, to see Himself, who
stood with open arms for
her arrival, asking her to walk
a while and share the secrets of her heart.
Full of joy she asked if all
were greeted in this way. He said
yes, but those of great old age, valiant
still, filled with love and goodness,
have a special place in my heart.

I know you Dorothy as one such soul,
reaching out in friendship.
Mother, woman, friend, full of
laughter, tears and sorrows too,
for that is human life. Working
hard, caring unstintingly.
You were always meant to come here,
even though you worried at the end.
Oh yes, I saw you with your child,
who bravely let you go warmly
bathed in love. A strong rare
bond, a mother’s job well done.

A musician you say?
Oh yes, I do remember, very gifted,
there are many like her here
joined in common song. And yes,
I know she is a writer too,
part of a group that took you
to themselves, named you heavy D,
delighted by your laughing spirit.

There are many souls waiting
to welcome you with love
in sweet reunion,
but before we part this time,
is there any question left unanswered,
any wish I can fulfill?
When shall you see your child again?
She will always be welcome, but
we need more trumpets at the moment,
so it will be a good long while I think.
A chocolate shake? Dear heart,
you have come to the right place.

for Dorothy Williams, dearest heavy D, who passed through those gates on August 15. with love and abiding admiration from one of her Space People. Photograph by Denise Gainey, copyright © 2014, used with permission.



What visits me today?
A lullaby in baritone
and funny bits of song,
dreadful jokes
in nuanced tones,
bearded bristle, paired
with a million kisses,
all too human shoulders
I thought and hoped
were everlasting granite,
long held friendships both
a gift and an example,
the pungent scent of cuban leaf
lit anywhere but in the house,
a feel for speed
and open road,
the skies he loved
and flew so well,
laughter, books and music
with the color, light and form
he looked at every day,
these brought him peace,
the certainty of love
from open eyes,
straight told advice,
his caring deep,
his spirit so ingrained,
that now, whenever
need is great
I conjure loving echoes
of an imperfect
perfect father,
to see me through
the dark.

Nine years ago today, my father died at 89, suddenly, but blessedly not alone, my sister was with him. His legend looms large in our lives, to quote a beatle, and I know we all miss him, need him, still and always.

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emptying a place, filling my soul

Sell a 6000 square foot house with outbuildings on 23 acres. Empty out 200 years of stuff. Add 15 cousins, stir well.

A TV series pitch? Not so much. It was my life for a while. It took about three years, but we did it, my cousin and I, with lots of family help and the sale of a painting.

There were miracles involved.

We were a typical extended family with rifts and misunderstandings. My cousin and I were trustees for the two branches (his father, my mother). We worked hard to heal the effects of the past, building a good working relationship, learning to trust each other. The rest of the family followed our lead, slowly but surely.

The potential for great drama burned off like fog. When the time came to finally empty things out, the family grew closer. There were no fights. None. Someone might get crabby for a few hours, but we all understood and helped each other through it.

Coming down to the wire the wild and wacky bartering started. Taking my name out of contention for a wooden bench, antique hay fork and french watering can produced the rug next to my bed! We all got into it. And it was never about monetary value.

So much so that when our family lawyer arrived on Monday morning to arbitrate any disputes, there were a whopping seven items waiting for him to decide about. Out of all that stuff. He said he’d never seen anything like it.

Big ticket items? Nope. The French watering can and a painting by my mother were the most hotly contested.

Even when the outcome was decided, we still made adjustments. One of my cousins (unbeknownst to me) was extremely attached to a child’s hearth chair that I got. Watching a slow tear make its way down her cheek, I simply gave her the chair. Fondness trumped by memories.

Later on her brother came up to me with a bowl he knew I really loved, but that he had chosen. He put it in my hands saying it had a small crack, and his wife had a thing about cracked bowls. I know it was because of the chair, even if he wouldn’t admit it.

Losing stuff. Regaining family.

It was that kind of day.

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local hitchhiker turns 90

Wish I could claim that zinger, but my nephew Adam delivered it sotto voce during the round of group photos at my sister Annie’s house this afternoon. A headline typical of our old small town newspaper, the Hudson Register Star.

Finally mellowing nicely thank you, my one-of-a-kind, definitely wacky stepmother Dorothy turned 90 today, and Annie rallied us to make the trek to the Berkshires for brunch in her honor. After a nice meal in a Lenox full of City weekenders, we regrouped to West Stockbridge to hang out for the afternoon. What a luxury.

gathering for DorothyIt was wonderful to be all together for a normal, non-BDM* occasion. There are six of us, of varied parental combinations, and except for Julie, the youngest (who lives in NZ, so she gets a pass), we all showed up, plus four out of seven next-genners, two with offspring of their own in tow.

Dorothy is the last elder in my immediate family, the only one left who “knew us all when”. Despite a rather checkered career as mother and stepmother, she has cruised into old age shedding neuroses and snarky tendencies, endearing herself to her grandchildren as she mellows out.

At the end of the afternoon my sister and I were marveling at “Zen Dorothy”, laughing that it was too bad it took her so long! In the words of the immortal (equally screwed up) Peter Sellers, “it is better to be late than never”. Oh yeah.

Dorothy grew up in Brooklyn, as did my Dad.

She loves Lottie Lenya in Brecht, Eggs Benedict, jazz, books, books, books, silly humor, left leaning politics, the theater, Ed Levin silver jewelry, bright colors, her plants and The Weavers.

Her children, stepchildren, grandchildren and great-grandchildren certainly.

My Dad once, then not. Then again for a while, then… eventually not. They separated for the final time a few years after they remarried.

Her friendships have been long and deep, even though she has always been able to alienate people close to her at the drop of a hat.

She has always been without prejudice (except perhaps towards those inflamed by it).

And she hitchhiked.

Once she could no longer drive, before her move to assisted living, she made us all crazy hitchhiking in and around Hudson NY, or when she visited family if no one was available to take her somewhere at the exact moment she wanted to go. These days commandeering a ride on someone’s walker seat is the only possibility.

Happy Birthday Dorothy. You are a marvel. I’m so glad we were there to celebrate with you. Lots of love.

*BDM = Births, Deaths, Marriages

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the sixth

bright eyes and loving spirit
found again, oh so stubborn
in her quest for peace
despite life’s quakes

we see her unafraid,
bold both in laughter
and in loving touch,
this gift of light

our admiration swells
the more for knowing
what she gladly paid as dues
in searching for the truth


poem © 2014 KH Rantilla. all rights reserved.