Stretching eager fingers, ready to continue on a new piece with the working title of “A Season in Hell”. Not very original, however, a tribute to one of my favorite writers Arthur Rimbaud. I look over the empty streets from my office. The unimpeded sun heats black tar and the day has the hazy look that leaves no question, it is summer. And from that vision, childhood memories emerge, of time bookended by school, and the absolute freedom beneath tree canopies.
The following poem is from where I grew up.
Across the Lutheran church, where first grade
was once held, replaced by the ringing Sunday
bells, the yellow cracker box with brown trimmed
windows, sat quietly.
Red swing set, white plastic seats,
in the middle of a small city lot
surrounded by a chain link fence,
endless summer days for a 10-year old.
Morning dew on the tip of bending grass
from yesterdays rain, the sun
peaking through at the end of main street.
Underneath spring planted pine trees
robins waddle through the manicured Kentucky Bluegrass,
quick pecks at the emerging worms.
The back corner of the yard nestled near the garage,
became a miniature cemetery over time.
The backdoor led into a breezeway,
with floor to ceiling windows, the warm wind
brought in the scent of lilacs, and the sun
as the morning burns away, giving to the afternoon.
Finally when chores were done,
(or good enough to a 10-year old)
time to race on two wheels and dust the competition.
The race is mine, just a shadow, the elusive shadow
elongating as the sun scans the sky.
I pedal faster, trying to gain an edge, the finish
line at the top the church courtyard stairs.
All of this I remember…
from the passenger seat across the street.
The white paint dirty, worn, peeling
but still holding the memories.
The swing set is gone, presumably into
rust, back into the earth. The plastic seats
off in a landfill, years ago discarded.
The concrete walled alleyway
overrun with blooming lilacs. The
cobwebs of low hanging electrical cables
leading to from the transformers, that
attract lighting each summer.
Many imagined getaways and bike races
took place, leading up a steep hill
to the other side, and back to the finish line.
Against a backdrop of older oak and elm
my fears did not follow me into adulthood,
the steep drop, not as intimidating, not as fast.
Across the alley, the willow tree is gone,
replaced by Washington apples, fodder
for the spring and summer robins
returning each year.
I wonder if the 64 mustang still inhabits
the third garage stall. A someday project
that time seemed to answer, time here at
the yellow clapboard home, has slipped.
And the church bell still rings, a trickle of
people emerging from the main doors,
faces and smiles and laughter not familiar,
but if I close my eyes, the yellow house
swirling in lilacs comes back
and the summer on 41st.
Photo by Patricia Youker