The mirror speaks of ancestral
sternness and the burden of my duties
striated around my eyes,
I see their foreheads rising skyward, relentless, proud
and I can sense their frenzy in my will to rule
I do my best to shade their genes with receding bangs.
Their tightened jaws are stern, paternal
but I chew it, pretending that I smile.
Their chromosomes are mine
but the way they ruled with rage is gone,
their world has crumbled, and has left me looking
for the face my mothers handed me.

For Kim writing about portraits at toads. I looked at myself in this, and saw my two grandfathers and thought what they had given me.

May 25, 2019

37 responses to “Grandfathers

  1. Well done Bjorn — a portrait that sees history as personal warden — and the work we have to do to be free of it. For every detail, a contrary which can only be so successful (“I do my best to shade their genes with receding bangs”). Final line, is it “force” or “face”?

  2. They gave you a big task, Bjorn. One cousin, now deceased, and I out of our nine most resemble my grandfather. He was unique. Unique considering the rest of the family.

  3. I like that you have drawn these two men together in one portrait, Björn, and that you see them in the mirror first, in your own eyes and forehead. These lines are very interesting:
    ‘Their tightened jaws are stern, paternal
    but I chew it, pretending that I smile.’
    I love the way your poem ends with the mothers and their enduring influence.

  4. Both have strong faces, stern men and proud. We cannot escape our genes, and yours, of course, stretch back to the vikings, so….

  5. Björn, your grandfathers both look handsome and photos at the time were often more official with people dressed smart and being groomed. It is sad there wasn’t softness hidden for private use.
    You now can be soft without being seen as weak, that is the blessing of
    being freed from roles.


  6. Perhaps you have the traits of your mother instead. Parents are normally gods to their young children but become more down to Earth as time progresses.

  7. I enjoyed seeing your grandfathers, Bjorn. Sometimes we do have to ‘chew’ and ‘shade’ things from our ancestors, it seems. And thankfully it seems the mothers’ force is stronger! (And wiser.)

  8. A brilliant soul knows to claim the best of his roots, does the best he can with his bangs *silly pun intended*.

    Love the tone, Bjorn. I can always see the speaker standing in front of the portraits, seeing the bits he shares with others, remembering the bits that are only his.

  9. They both have such strong and elegant features, Bjorn! ❤️ I love the tone in this poem and like Rosemary would love to read what your mothers gave you 🙂

  10. This is a captivating poem, although the emotion is almost baffled by the photos, which don’t seethe in quite the way the words do. The legacy of both features and constitution needs that extra dimension.

  11. I love this, Bjorn, especially the receding bangs, and the legacy handed down. Love that the anger of earlier generations has been replaced with traits from your mother. I remember looking in the mirror, at 50, and seeing my grandma’s face super-imposed on mine.

  12. Gosh, I love this portrait and your reflection (literal and figurative) on these men. And especially noticing the impact of their foreheads, wow, that is great.

  13. I luv that you claim your DNA and yet choose to be the person time tells you best be.
    Happy you dropped by my sumie Sunday today


  14. The ending about your mother’s face in you gave me a chill, and I just love the part about the foreheads. Bravo!

  15. Your poem says to me that we don’t have to be slaves to our past. What a relief!

  16. A strong, well constructed poem. It read, for me, as if it was setting up a piece about what we inherit (beyond genetics) – and in fact, I think it would work beautifully that way. The line ‘their world has crumbled’ seems to be taking it in that direction (albeit, very possibly a long and tangled trail – perhaps even, an endless trail – of how the world changed – so profoundly – generationally, over the course of the 20th century. We are different from our parents and grandparents, because we inherited a world very different from the world that they inherited (probably more impactfully so, than in any other generation of mankind). I noticed that others have commented that they were interested in hearing more about the traits of your mother. I’m thinkin’ trilogy. ~ smiles ~

  17. their world has crumbled, and has left me looking
    for the face my mothers handed me….. love those last two lines, Bjorn. I can completely connect with them…

  18. Amazing what we can see, when we look back, back years, way back, centuries, hard to say what you get when you mix up the recipes. Will it be roast beef or cookies?

  19. What a wonderful reflection, both your own as well as your grandfathers. To see yourself in what has come before.

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