Sunday, May 07, 2006

Annotations Caught

April 7: Caught

When I was a child, my father would take my brother, sister and I to the Detroit River to fish. We sat at a parking lot that was adjacent to the river. We enjoyed this time very much. We would wander about; fish sometimes, play, roll down the hills and frolic. There were a few other people that would be fishing. We didn’t talk to them very much. Most people fish for the quiet we learned, not for the actual catching of the fish. Plus, this was in the early to mid 1970’s, so eating the fish from the Great Lakes and Detroit River was not necessarily a good idea.

There was one man with whom my dad would have random conversations - the man depicted in this poem. He never said very much, but when he did, it was both amusing and profound. He was very tall, very gaunt and probably poor. He may have been fishing for food, I am not really sure.

What I first noticed about him were his shoes. He wore Converse high top running shoes. He cut away the top part over the toes. I don’t think he could afford shoes that actually fit, so he would cut away the front to allow his toes to have room. I remember thinking how sad that was, that he couldn’t afford proper shoes.

He would talk sometimes about living in Detroit, then Windsor, the immigration north of his family from the south to Detroit. He talked about his grandparents (I think he said, maybe great grandparents) being slaves. To a white Canadian girl, this was frightening and exotic and saddening. Seeing someone who knew that life really touched me. Sometimes history isn’t that far away. I learned that from him. This wasn’t long after Detroit burned during the riots, so it really struck me. A collision of history past and history in the making, but it was more than a historical exercise, he was a very nice man. I am sure that he would have preferred not to be bothered by this white girl that was always asking him questions. He and his friend (a woman who showed up less frequently than he, but was always very kind) would very lovingly answer my naïve questions.

Over the years I have thought about him. He has stuck with me. He was this ordinary man whose family lived through extraordinary times. Yet he still just fished at the river. He was so peaceful when he could have been so angry. His life obviously wasn’t very gentle with him, poverty and all, but here he was chatting with this young girl. He didn’t need to, and yet he did. He very gently changed the thinking of a naïve girl, who only knew safety. He opened my world a little. Anyway, this poem stems from all of this. I can only hope the rest of his life was as peaceful as the kindness he showed to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment