Teller of Tales

 Teller of Tales

This tale is a history, a fable, a prayer
of those gone before me, now gathered with care.
The diaries and pictures and letters enclosed
deciphered my kin and what they supposed.
Those who are living—their stories intact,
Those gone before us—who knows what was fact?

I met not the aunts nor uncles you’ll greet
Met not the grandparents whose waltz is complete.
I presume who they were by looking at me—
our blossoms and thorns twining through the same tree.
Our shadows and secrets for so long passed down,
those thistles and thorns now replaced by a crown.

It was back in the thirties my parents did meet,
then married, had children with ten little feet.
I am the youngest, this teller of tales,
unearthing my family, removing our veils.
I’m descended from Clemens, the kin of my dad
who married a Chatfield—a girl some thought bad.
I’ve written of both, their histories and lives,
of Mom’s other husband and Daddy’s three wives.

I know they’ll excuse me—my gaffes and asides,
tis those who are living who might have my hide.
I wrote of my brother, my sisters and me,
recording our stories with hazed memory.
Some snort, some are angry, some threaten, some rear—
some nights I don’t sleep from the scorn that I fear.
But it’s none of my business what they think of me—
I wrote what I deemed ’bout this family tree.

by Catherine (Clemens) Sevenau

Clemens siblings, Sonora, California, 1950 L-R: Carleen, Claudia, Cathy (Catherine) in middle, Betty (Liz), Larry (Gordon)

Clemens siblings, Sonora, California, 1950
L-R: Carleen, Claudia, Cathy (Catherine) in middle, Betty (Liz), Larry (Gordon)

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  1. Dee Spraggins Mills says:

    Another great read. Thank you. I’m sure our families met at some point. Spouse-Reitz was THE store to go to. I remember it well.

    • Thank you Dee. My Dad went on to manage a Sprouse Reitz on Haight Street for many years, and when it closed he ran one in San Carlos for a while. Now there are none left. The last ones closed around 1994.

  2. Judith Hunt says:

    Love the poem. You are a brave woman!

    • Thank you. It does take a bit of bravery to write about some of the past, but I had a great teacher who taught me that “What you hide, you get to keep.” He also made it clear that they are just stories, and that we all have them.

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