Tuesday, September 16, 2014
They disappear with friends
near age 11. We lose them
to baseball and tennis, garage
bands, slumber parties, stages
where they rehearse for the future,
ripen in a tangle of love knots.
With our artificial knees and hips
we move into the back seats
of their lives, obscure as dust
behind our wrinkles, and sigh
as we add the loss of them
to our growing list of the missing.
Sometimes they come back,
carting memories of sugar cookies
and sandy beaches, memories of how
we sided with them in their wars
with parents, sided with them
even as they slid out of our laps
into the arms of others.
Sometimes they come back
and hold onto our hands
as if they were the thin strings
of helium balloons
about to drift off.
"Grandchildren" by Olivia Stiffler, from Otherwise, We Are Safe. © Dos Madres Press, 2013
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
But sturdy and stanch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket moulds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.
"Now, don't you go till I come," he said,
"And don't you make any noise!"
So, toddling off to his trundle-bed,
He dreamt of the pretty toys;
And, as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue---
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true!
Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place---
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face;
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
Since he kissed them and put them there.
Sunday, August 31, 2014
Here past the edge of town,
this one as well as any other
in the Adirondacks, the trees lock arms
and lean into each other like
relatives at a family reunion.
This is some history; listen to the names,
Sugar Maple, Black Spruce, Wild Cherry,
Sweet Birch, the old White Oaks. On and
on into the hillsides until my tongue rolls
and I whisper Ohio, imagining this is what it was
one hundred years ago, imagining this is what
whispered in the ear of Tecumseh, who fought for it
for twenty years, knowing when he started he couldn't
win, but who fought and lost anyway, imagining
this is what whispered to my great grandfather
Marvin Peabody, when he dropped down out of the
Northeast. Who left when he heard his neighbors
unfolding the arms of trees with axes and bucksaws
and headed west, rubbing the fine dust from his eyes.
But came back when he saw that like Ohio, that too
was lost. He came back I suppose because he had
nowhere else to go. Or maybe he just liked the name
Ohio. And why not. Whisper it now, whisper
Ohio, Ohio, Ohio, and amid the miles of concrete,
under the culverts dumping waste, around the smokestacks
over by the river, a breeze picks up
sending a ripple, like a litany
through the family of tree.
The sprinkler twirls.
The summer wanes.
The pavement wears
The playground grass
Is worn to dust.
The weary swings
Creak, creak with rust.
The trees are bored
With being green.
Some people leave
The local scene
And go to seaside
And take off nearly
All their clothes.
"August" by John Updike, from A Child's Calendar. © Holiday House, 2002.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
We spent those stifling endless summer afternoons
on hot front porches, cutting paper dolls from Sears
catalogs, making up our own ideal families
complete with large appliances
and an all-occasion wardrobe with fold-down
paper tabs. Sometimes we left crayons
on the cement landing, just to watch them melt.
We followed the shade around the house.
Time was a jarful of pennies, too hot
to spend, stretching long and sticky,
a brick of Bonomo's Turkish Taffy.
Tomorrow'd be more of the same,
ending with softball or kickball,
then hide and seek in the mosquitoey dark.
Fireflies, like connect-the-dots or find-the-hidden-
words, rose and glowed, winked on and off,
their cool fires coded signals
of longing and love
that we would one day
learn to speak.
"The Fifties" by Barbara Crooker, from Radiance. © Word Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
So much depends upon
by Tom Chandler
the blonde woman who drops a potato
in the supermarket parking lot where it rolls
beneath the 89 Dodge Ram with rust patches
near the left rear fender from contact with
too much road salt during the winter of 91
which was actually one of the mildest on record
though the driver tends to remember it
as the season he was fired from his job
at the aluminum window factory where
he had worked for nearly sixteen years
without promotion as he shifts into reverse
and backs over the potato which squishes
as softly as a dream's last breath and leaves
slick asphalt for the lot boy to slip on
as he pushes a train of shopping carts
and sprains his lumbar vertebrae just
days before he is scheduled to leave
for basic training to become the cool
killing machine he's always craved
but will now have to settle for someday
making assistant produce manager
and marrying a girl he almost loves just
as the blonde woman finds herself
one potato short with dinner guests
ringing the doorbell.
"So much depends upon" by Tom Chandler from Toy Firing Squad. © Wind Publications, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow it's mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all.
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life's gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.
"Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Public Domain