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The AP Poetry Collaboration: Amy Pettit-Alan Prest

Ella Mae Amy Pettit considered herself a second rate poet, even in her nineties. Having known her the last eleven years, I beg to differ. Several of her poems were shared with me by family. Indian Summer
By Amy Pettit (1952)

The trees are green yet A hint of coolness in the breeze. The sky is blue yet Days go faster in their ease. Life so full, so joyous yet Hold fast my soul, these things. So swiftly they fly away yet No hint that summers gone and spring. Indian Summer! Oh, my soul Enjoy it to the full and see A glimpse of harvest now at last Rest, accept. Winter has to be.

By Amy Pettit (1977)

Secure from ringing telephone Or knocking on my door The cricket sleeps; no motor drone -Silence stills me to inner core. Oh come apart my friends with me. Listen! Thoreau was right. The stillness speaks: True wisdom we Receive with silence in the night. Precious stillness; Hare interlude In your peace and quiet I bask. Restored now; I return renewed Gratefully take up my task.

Being Old
By Amy Pettit (undated)

Yes, my body is old But it is not the real me. The real me is as young as you are. In fact, the real me Never changes.

The Poet Within

By Amy Pettit (1998)

The old woman sits pondering: Pondering, yearning, longing. Longing to tell, she thinks, a story. A story of who I am and how and why. Paper, pen, desk, aloneness: Alone in silence, tuned within. Within? O God! Theres nothing! Nothing, no words, no rhyme. Infinite sadness, dimness, darkness: Darkness of memory. Lost is the song. A song unuttered, nothing remains. Lost forever while longing goes on. Soul of a poet in Alzheimers brain.

Three things put Amy in a different place emotionally, poetry, pictures and prayer. When visiting, I frequently brought her poems and old pictures. Regardless of how many times I uttered her poetic words, Amy heard them as if the first time. I never read The Poet Within to Amy, who had memory issues related to dementia. While her written words are very powerful, she verbalized similar sentiments. My aim was to have her resonate with other thoughts and feelings, while never denying any anxieties or frustrations. Her love for poetry provided a resonating vehicle. The day after her 96th birthday, I asked if I could write a poem about our visit.

Amy Walks in Time

By Alan Prest (6-1-11)

Yesterday marked her 96th year A present with blessings, mixed and otherwise She gingerly raises the cup to her lips, Savoring the stark, black coffee. She walks back in time, A toddler pulling on her Mommas skirt Her Daddy spoons out hot coffee for her little lips The cup tilts dangerously close to spilling I grab it and set it on the floor. I was a walker, she said after her latest fall. Im going to get better, shake this sorry feeling. It sounded like a wonderful plan. I wouldnt put anything past her. Amy Pettit reached 96 from walking. Her future literally rests on her next steps. Amy walks in time, Between dreamtime and her waking state. Amy walks in her mind, where Robert appears to show off his shoes. She didnt know if it was a dream or not. Either way, Amy saw her loving son And his new shoes. Amy talked of poetry, Words that touch and paint Impress images and emotions. Im just a second rate poet. She spoke the words, I felt them. Ill write a poem about our visit. Id love that, it gives me something to look forward to. I love the written word. So do I. Its a timeless love shared.

Amy said she had a poem in her head. I asked if she wanted help getting it to paper. She nodded. I promised to bring pen and paper. When reminded of our project with pen in hand, Amy sheepishly revealed shed lost it, which became the title for our lark of a poem. Amy Lost Her Poem
By Amy Pettit and Alan Prest (6-4-11)

Did the pen do its job Putting words to paper? Surely it did. The missing poem had to be a caper. Who pilfered Amys poem, snatching it from her home? No one would steal from a second rate poet. Theres no profit in that, Even a dolt knows it. Where should we roam for the missing poem? Is it hidden in a drawer? Did it fall on the floor? Was it bumped in the head? Maybe lying in bed. All kinds of possibilities Including signs and fragilities Did a vulture fly off with Amys word sculpture? Was the pilferer more the rodent kind? How did he get access to Amys mind? Its somewhere in the house That missing mouse.

Early on she provided the words to the last line. We had much fun building to that missing mouse.

In another visit I asked about her good memories. Theres something about the light that attracts the dark. Amys Good Memories
By Alan Prest (6-7-11)

1915? I was born in 1915? I dont recall like I should. Recollections that I can recall Are way back there. Harvey and I herded sheep, with Juanita and Marie along, But they were little. At dusk wed drive the sheep And feed em hay, Stuff like that. Certain words and recollections come across, Some of it pretty good. Good memories? Hmmm Sitting on my Daddys lap, Grandma Lee, a devout lady, taught me To say my prayers every night She was a natural Christian Married to a devil. Children just want to love and be loved. Us kids didnt like Grandpa. He was just, pardon my language, An old bastard, Robert would warn me, Grandpas coming. I ran. I stayed ahead of him on account of his bad leg. My sister had a lot of trouble with him. Kids are taught to respect their elders, But I had no respect for him. I didnt love him. Grandpa wanted us to run by, See if he could catch us. Feeling up little girls. Uhhhh, I hated that man. When Grandma died, the church held a funeral. They spoke of her like a minister. Daddy was wonderful, loving A hard-working man farmer. Momma raised chickens and turkeys,

Fed twelve of us, three times a day I dont know how she worked so hard. Grandma and Grandpa joined us for the noontime meal We had to show ourselves, clean and properly dressed. Otherwise we couldnt eat. I cant wait for you to meet the family, It was mostly saints. If theres food, well look nice.

One visit began with Amy intent on writing a poem about Al, her deceased husband. She spoke for five minutes straight. I took her words, shuffled them and added one line, needed to fill a memory hole. Amy couldnt remember kissing Al goodbye when he passed. A Tribute to Al
by Amy Pettit 6-23-11

Al was a beautiful man, a happy man His smile lit a room His joy was to make me happy Als gone now His big hearty laugh is missing With him gone, theres no joy My loss, tremendous grief But in grief, he will always be with me I cannot forget The joy, our love together The offspring we produced still Remind me of our joy. Lois and Robert laughed at his stories Al teased them in love. We kissed the last time we saw each other My kiss, his portal to another world He was too good for this one. God go with you my love God bless and keep you, Al wherever

The line I inserted was my kiss, his portal to another world. The last time I visited Amy couldnt speak. She could only open her eyes ever so slightly. I read Indian Summer, Stillness and Being Old to her. I read the poems wed completed together. We prayed for God to hold us close as my dear friend prepared to cross over. I read an article about the Carnegie Library in Ballinger, Texas where

Amy grew to love the written word. It seemed to reach the little girl in Amy Petitt, who passed later that evening. In going through my notes from our visits, I found two unfinished poems, Maybe and Lois. Maybe
By Amy Pettit and Alan Prest

When I was young I wanted to live forever Do I still feel that way? Maybe, but a very tentative maybe I like to be scared sometimes Not by ghosts or tigers or mountain lions, But by a profound idea. Would you marry again? I dont know. Al was such an experience, Changeable, but enjoyable. I went to school when I was an old lady. I was just as ignorant as I could be. So many people are so different, Its real difficult. Dont you get tired of putting up with me? I would. I had a few boyfriends. I was wondering how I got along with Al. I didnt like him when I met him. When did I change my mind? Three minutes later. Al was gentle as a frog. He tooted around, but meant no harm. I really loved him. Id give my life for him. They say cats have nine lives. Cats are unusual. They can live long. Maybe someday Ill memorize the Bible. Ill have to live forever to do that. Al wanted to live forever. This trip is yours to make. Life is tedious, not very interesting. No accomplishments, Dont really know what to do.

Major things have been done. People are forgetting wisdom. Theyre too impatient to wait for it. Cant be sought easily. Many trying to be wise are just a jackass. The very thing between a carrot and a stick. Carrots are bribery, while sticks are force, The primary tools of leaders, Sucking joy from a purposed life. Im not satisfied with much these days, including myself. It doesnt seem like it all falls together. Do I want to go back to my calling, helping people? Maybe. My backs hurting, breaking in two.

Amy wanted to share how much she loved her daughter Lois. We started the poem, but Amy soon felt poorly. We planned to return to this poem. Amy wanted it to be as special as her seventy five year relationship with her daughter. Lois
By Amy Pettit

Lois loves me. She was always playing as a little girl In the backyard with a ball Until we lost it Then we played with balloons Batting them back and forth Until theyd burst. Wed laugh so. Lois liked to dress in pretty colors I helped fix her hair And pick out her shoes. Shed go out where there was people Lois loves me. I love her, dearly. I watched Lois shepherd her mother to the rear doors of the vehicle from Johnsons Funeral Home. It was a heartbreaking goodbye.