From downstream-coming up on it- It does look like an elephant. Massive head and shoulders, reclining Leisurely almost, facing the current, Watching for what might be floating around The upper bend and into its patch of river. It’s watched as my old man taught us how to Catch bait in it’s shallows and bass in It’s channels or off it’s weed bed. It has sat unperturbed as generations Jumped from it’s head, climbed up It’s back and swam around it’s bulk. My old man tried to capture it in Water colors, oils, pencil and chalk. It’s been photographed from the water in Summer and from the shore when it Sat alone, icebound and snow swept. It looks no different today than it did In the fifties when my old man sat me Up on its head and snapped away with His Argus. On videos, forty years later, my daughters Hop and wave from its back. Today, as the canoe bounces gently against it, I reach up and rub the warm, gray shoulder. “Hey, old man”, I say-not knowing if I’m Talking to the rock or the man who had First sat me upon it. I pushed off, passed through its shadow And continued on- Making one last cast into its eddy.
Postcard sent from my grandfather to his estranged wife in December of 1943.
The legend reads “Seneca Rock 900 feet high, overlooking old Seneca Indian Trail or Warriors Path, which was the Indian Highway from New York to the South in West Virginia.”
A climbing friend of mine has “been to the top of that rock more times that I can count via a hundred different routes. I have no doubt some of those Native Americans took a detour to the summit too. The right-hand peak is only about three feet wide at the top, a person can sit with each foot dangling over the opposite valley.”
The postcard reads in a crimped script:
Arrived as usual, O.K. Will be in Montgomery for part of next week, so don’t fail to write. Do you still remember? Keep smiling.
Be seeing you.
It was one of two mailings sent from Mullens, WV in the same day. A letter and this card went to two different addresses in Mon City. He was either unsure exactly where she was staying or simply wanted to cover all bases.
He was thirty eight at the time and had three kids who had been shipped off to his mother.
The mulberries stained hard-deep purple bruises across the back of my shirts. Ma never minded though. They were her Dad’s trees and we only saw them when we visited the old place. She kept a few of the stained shirts, clean otherwise, in a drawer and would have me wear them around the apartment where we lived in town. She’d hug me and run her hands over the splotches which I couldn’t feel but she could. She’d whisper “Daddy” and sometimes cry.
I climbed one of those trees once. Not too high-I was a little kid-but high enough that the inevitable fall left me splatted and dazed, flat on my back. Lying there, the sun leaking through the purple flecked leaves, a man took shape. A man I wouldn’t meet for years.
He was big and dark, up from the Islands to live with his daughter next door for the summer. He was wearing a clean white T-shirt that stretched sorely across his bulk. The sun glistened off his head as he picked mulberries into a dented pot from a tree in the park across the street.
“Daddy!”, his daughter cried her accent only revealed when she was agitated. “Don’ pick the berries! People up here will tink you too country!” She said this running in her bare feet. His smiling eyes caught mine.
“She say dat til she taste da pie…” he said. Then he laughed a rolling rumble that I couldn’t help but join.
Anna Yanni was born 22 days after my father in 1931.
She never had a Christmas morning where-as the only child
The room would be full of gifts for the gift.
She never played in the yard or worked in her grandfather’s garden.
She didn’t go to school.
Never acted in the high school production of Best Foot Forward,
Never went to art school-never drew a thing.
Didn’t spend 18 years in the Army Reserves
Pushing and being pushed.
Never laid a brick.
Didn’t marry, raise children,
Worry, love, be paralyzed by fear.
Be proud, prideful or exult.
Work, play, fish
Have friends, have family,
Watch the Steelers,
Live, love, laugh, drink,
Die at home.
Maybe that last. Probably.
For 16 days why even leave Heaven?
Who booked her on that cruise?
Who was little Anna sent to serve
Or to save?