between the headstones

between the headstones
the grass growing green
where the grounds’ man keeps
the weeds from overtaking
graves of forgotten
ancestors and of
neglected mothers
ignored by children
with no time for grief
the soldiers lie still
flags gently swaying
a line of colors
in patriot winds
with rusty railings
heavy chain fences
creaking in the night
frightening neighbors
whose imaginings
conjure ghosts and ghouls
do not think too hard
of what lies beneath
the closely shorn grass
the parklike meadow
decomposition
don’t let yourself think
or the reality
of mortality
will find its way home

 

I Dream of Mayberry

My dreams
take me back home
to a land of quiet streets
children playing, riding bikes
Dreams of Mayberry on parade

I dream of
neighborhood crushes
talking late into the night over backyard fences
sneaking a quick hand hold, a stolen kiss
enough for pleasant dreams
to see us through the night

I dream of
dogs running free
no leash laws to fence them in
leaving the house to be greeted by
favorite canines with jingling collars
the garbageman’s dog lived across the street
my friends would say,
Oh, you live by the garbageman’s dog!
a local celebrity dressed in fur

I dream of
attending school
with the children of doctors,
lawyers, movie stars, millionaires
our family on our simple cul de sac
a far cry from the mansions of my classmates
entire wings of houses closed off for the season
rooms only used for parties
servants, yard workers, maids

I dream of
our family home
a three-bedroom rambler
on a quiet street
at the bottom of the hill
down the street from the Catholic church

I dream of
Sunday mornings
trapped on our street
by slow-moving church traffic
I thought everyone dealt with
church traffic on Sunday mornings
the church played a role
in our lives each week
even though we didn’t attend

I dream of
childhood confusions
Sunday with my grandmother
in the church on the hill
I committed a mistake
I was only five
evidently it was a sin
the priest felt it necessary
to scold me publicly
I refused to go back

I dream of
swimming and fishing
off Grandpa’s dock at the lake
of chasing tiny fish with a net
of releasing the trout intended for dinner
unwilling to watch the life leave their eyes

I dream of
feeding the ducks
every duck and goose on bay
winging to the child with the dry bread
back in those bygone days
when we could still feed the waterfowl

I dream of
running barefoot at my grandparents’
which wasn’t an option
unless you wanted goose droppings
between your toes

I dream of
trees and water weeds
the weeping willow leaning over the lake
no need for a swing
grab a handful of willow branches
and fly out over the water
laughing as we let go and landed
with water up the nose
while weeds in the water
grabbed at our toes

Days of Normal Parts

The days were full of normal parts. Eat, sleep, school, work. Activities we all shared. Each house sheltering a family going through it’s normal day. Mothers at home fixing dinner, fathers greeted at the door with a gin and tonic while they took off their overcoat, loosened their tie, and set their hat carefully on the shelf in the coat closet. Imagine Mad Men. This was our life. Our life of normal parts. So foreign and sexist to today’s ethos of family.

Some days were magical. The snow would fall in mounds and school would be cancelled. We’d run home, grab our mittens, and jump and dance and slide and build and throw and tumble for hours. Our mothers would call us in for cinnamon toast and hot chocolate. We’d warm our hands, fill our bellies, and head back out into the magic.

Some days were frightening. Watching television when special announcements came on the air. A president dead. My grandmother screaming as she put her hand to her mouth, dropping her cigarette onto the carpet. From my view on the floor with my toys, I could see the muddled video of a handsome couple waving from a convertible, and then everything blurry and confused. At the same time, I watched Grandma’s cigarette smolder, and hoped we weren’t going to burn up in a housefire. Innocence watching the news.

The days could continue to be frightening. This time a Civil Rights leader. My mother screaming as she stood to her feet from the couch and looked ready to run away. But there was nowhere to go. She screamed, “No! Oh, no! Not him! Not him, too!” I realized this somehow connected to the dead president, but I wasn’t sure how. I learned the word assassination that day.

We became young adults and wanted to escape this small town life. The conversations were always the same. The gossip. The keeping-up-with-the-neighbors. This town was so boring. There was nothing to do. We wanted excitement. We wanted lights and noise and movement.

We became older adults and wanted to return again. After we went out to see the excitement and the lights and the noise, we dreamed about those quieter times. The leisurely afternoons, Saturday morning cartoons. We longed for the world of our youth. The world of those days of normal parts.