The events in Dallas 53 years ago are dimming in the nation’s mind, but I always remember.
I was just three months into 9th grade in old school building now gone. I was in the downstairs hallway, by the doors to the auditorium, when the principle made the announcement over the loudspeaker that the president had died.
The news hit me hard.
JFK had awakened my political interests just three years before, when I was 11 or twelve, an interest that continued through a six-year stint in journalism and since. I’d just started being aware of politics and presidential elections then, though, and vaguely remember Continue reading “In Memoriam, Nov. 22, 1963”
Bless this boy, born with the strong face
of my older brother, the one I loved most,
who jumped with me from the roof
of the playhouse, my hand in his hand. On Friday nights we watched Twilight Zone
and he let me hold the bowl of popcorn,
a blanket draped over our shoulders,
saying, Don’t be afraid. I was never afraid
when I was with my big brother
who let me touch the baseball-size muscles
living in his arms, who carried me on his back
through the lonely neighborhood,
held tight to the fender of my bike
until I made him let go.
The year he was fourteen
he looked just like Ray, and when he died
at twenty-two on a roadside in Germany
I thought he was gone forever.
But Ray runs into the kitchen: dirty T-shirt,
torn jeans, pushes back his sleeve.
He says, Feel my muscle, and I do.
Found this morning on Writer’s Almanac. Men– if we’re completely honest–are envious of women, as a group, in some rather superficial ways, but particularly in the birthing abilities she talks about–that we will never have. It is a power that is beyond us. We know it. And you know we know it. And we know you know we know it.
When they were little I read
to them at night until my tongue
got tired. They would poke me
when I started to nod off after twenty pages
of Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket.
I read (to them) to get them to love reading
but I was never sure if it was working
or if it was just what I was supposed to do.
But one day, my daughter (fifteen then)
was finishing Of Mice and Men in the car
on our way to basketball.
She was at the end when I heard her say,
No, in a familiar frightened voice
and I knew right away where she was.
“Let’s do it now,” Lennie begged,
“Let’s get that place now.”
“Sure, right now. I gotta. We gotta,”
and she started crying, then I started crying,
and I think I saw Steinbeck
in the back seat nodding his head,
and it felt right to me,
like I’d done something right,
and I thought to myself, Keep going,
read it to me, please, please, I can take it.
Who knows when fear arrives for us…
Perhaps the first is in the egg’s big moment,
When she, plump and frisky and motivated,
Feels the urgent “hey, baby, open up!” of a thousand horny
Sperm poking and stroking all sides of her
Like desperate sales clerks
After three slow months
And she’s the one customer with cash.
My first remembered brush with darkness
Was a nameless thing, because I could not yet form words.
I left my family in the living room and wandered around the corner.
I remember seeing the half-dark kitchen,
All shadows of familiar things turned strange In the gloom.
And toddled onward, lurching over to a corner.
Who knows what I was looking for.
I saw a mark on the linoleum
(I think my creepy brother had told me it was a bug, earlier, and I
was somehow drawn back to it)
There it was, but in the gloom, alone,
It seemed alive and growing, reaching for me.
I froze. And screamed. And fled.
I think that was the first time I’d felt totally alone,
Separate. Safety was gone, and that spot
Was everything that aloneness meant.
The bottom dropped out of my world
And sheer panic made my feet move,
Back toward the light, my parents
Sure something malevolent was following.
I remember hysterics—mine;
Unable to talk yet, I could only babble desperate sounds,
Trying to name a
Terror that no one could understand.
My father took my hand and let me stand in the door
While he turned on the kitchen light
Beckoned me over, and asked what I’d seen.
He was probably expecting a rat.
In the light, the terror, the prehensile primal fear
That had wrapped a tentacle around my chest
Uncoiled. Bit by bit.
It was just a bug-shaped stain on the floor.
I remember approaching it slowly,
Touching it with my toe.
“Go ahead, touch it with your finger,” he said, mildly
Ignoring my brother’s laughter from the other room
The monster shrank from the light, shriveled
And went back into nothing.
A remnant of a splotch of something dropped long ago.
But to this day, I believe that evil is real and
That it cannot
Live for long in the light.
I remember the summers of tall corn, and Princess,
Running, face slapped and cut by green leaves while she
Dashed in and out of the alien-looking bases of the stalks
laughing, daring me to follow.
I remember feeling the darkness close in, alone in the tall corn, stalks closing over me, afraid.
Closing out the sun, closing off a sense of direction,
By a laughing dog who found me, asked-why-I-was-standing-still…
Running away, free among the stalks
Until I followed, redeemed, pulled into the unknown, laughing, too.
Summer days among the tall corn, lost, found, redeemed,
Long rows curving into mystery, terror, fear and salvation,
A friend who never left me, always came back, refused to let me shrink from the unknown,
A dog who kept me anchored in the now, in experience, in friendship.
A dog and a boy. A dog is a savior for a young boy, too frightened to know where to turn.
The land, the island wilderness, the endless rows of corn eight feet tall,
Twisting, curving, full of weedy vines, rocks and in a burst of fur and dust,
a laughing dog who
Never let me lose myself, always called me back, mocked my adolescent timidity,
Made me follow, explore and, eventually, to laugh with her.
The land, the land…. way more than just a summer’s day
In the tall corn with Princess. My puny fears, yes, but my foundation.
A link to a thousand ancestors. In my insignificance, still stronger by connections.
The land…. a family memory, stretching into antiquity,
The land… a sense of place, of time, of belonging, of self.
The land.. passed along now, my connection cut, but not quite.
The land… a sense of place ended, but not quite.
The land… a place to put my face into, my fingers digging deep, holding onto… but not any more.
The land…. a place that birthed me, shaped me with a laughing dog, long ago,
The land… a place that infused me, called to me, supported me, made me, set me free.