By way of a cracked sidewalk in Winston-Salem

The old lady in the grand house
used to dole out little candies
which seemed most special
because they were small, infrequent,
and welcome to a lonely little girl.
I remember sitting quietly and chatting,
feeling lifted by her elegance and wondering
why she was so alone
amid her gleaming floors and fancy piano.
It was shadowy inside even on a sunny day.
Somehow I imagined this woman
an eccentric mystery I would one day solve.

There have been times I have felt
so damn empty as a grownup,
I take big handfuls of those candies
and aside from a few moments
of delight, am still empty afterwards
-and a little bit alone. It occurs to me
I am diluting a pure memory
by the sheer volume of comfort I seek.
And it occurs to me that not only is she
still a mystery, but I am on my way
to becoming an eccentric old lady too,
full of stories and candy to share.

quiet play

you’ll always be there
on that shabby playground
tracing cracks in the pavement
sidestepping ladybugs
conversing with daddy long-legs
bending chalk lines
racing beside me against time
wanting recess to last the whole day
praying summer would come soon
pretending we were characters in books
drawing our dream house in the dust
noticing how the moon peeked out sometimes during the day
drinking the honeysuckle that gathered by the fence
swinging beside me
just quietly being
the best part of my day

childhood memory

a single moment of beauty
real beauty
in the middle of
the fucked up tableau
of avocado green linoleum
putrid yellow appliances
of tacky knick-knacks
dirty orange shag carpet
of plastic heat
powdered drinks and potatoes
of blinding sunshine
and blood and guts and bruises
it is enough
to make the rest of it worthwhile

elegance of old

when I saw her last, she was walking a bit slower
her gait still jaunty yet slightly bent
she moved with familiarity of her body
the memory of how she moved in youth
pivoting, twisting, stretching
all in quiet grace
but now she was forced to hesitate a bit
wait for her body to catch up with her mind
still sharp and bending
her eyes were a bit cloudy
not with tears of remembrance
but with aging melancholy
she saw things now in a softer focus
knew what mattered
in a way she never dreamed or thought through
when she talked, it was a slower process
for her prose to come through
and when she sang
it wasn’t the cool higher tones of spring
but the warm dulcet tones of autumn
still beautiful in its season of color
her time with her instrument was limited
for her grip was not as strong
but she could still sketch truth
better than anyone I have known
she still insisted upon baking her bread
and growing her garden
until she could create no longer
for though these things seemed to me fleeting
she knew that’s what I’d remember most
she looked askance at her photographs
that filled the wall behind the sofa
some yellowed and torn, some dusty, some worn
and felt no sadness for those that were gone
but a new calm at the idea of seeing them again

Dusty Dash Surprises


He had this old beat up pickup truck. I don’t remember the color; it was always dusty. I don’t know the make or model; I think it was an old Chevy, but I may be confusing it with the old Don McClean song because I’m pretty sure it made many trips to the dry levy. It looked like a rusty lawn ornament until you got close and saw even though it looked tired, it was ready to go on adventures.

The doors creaked open in protest and I think I fully expected a gnome or troll to pop out, not allowing me entrance since I pictured the vehicle as a magical portal. I was so small then, clambering and climbing just to get in. The cab looked cavernous with it’s oversized dash, mysterious levers and buttons. The radio dials were frozen but you could still pick up a few stations. The seats were crinkly soft like an old couch you’d find along the curb for the trash man. The steering wheel was big like a ship’s wheel which was appropriate I thought since riding felt sort of like sailing- a bit bumpy, noisy. Wind whipping through my hair. It was always exciting and a bit unnerving like an amusement park ride. There weren’t any seat-belts so I spent half the ride aloft, trying to hold on but never finding purchase except if I was lucky and could grab the manual window opener like grabbing the brass ring.

The absolute best part of that truck
without a doubt even in my aging memory was the area above the dash itself. Oh what wondrous surprises! I don’t know how the items stayed and didn’t fly away in the wind but maybe it was the sheer weight and volume.

Aside from maps as you’d expect, you could find Polaroids, matches, rubber bands, screwdrivers, tape, 8 tracks, newspaper clippings, packs of teaberry chewing gum, a comb, handkerchiefs, peanuts, scraps of paper with numbers, notebooks, postcards, pencils, darts, a hammer, guitar picks, nuts and bolts, screws, nails, measuring tape, glue, a magazine, crackers, sketches, paints, and gloves.

The stories I came up with just perusing those items always kept my young mind busy. I can still see the mixed art collage of that truck dash. I can smell the fuel, the teaberry gum, and his clean piney soapy smell. I can see the bright blue of his eyes. I can see his smile. Though I never knew him well, I would have known we were related even if nobody had told me.

I don’t know where he is but that’s OK. We shared enough to finish our story. But I often think of that truck, no doubt crumbling into the ground on some parcel of forgotten neglected farmland. The ride never lasted long enough though. I never finished exploring. I wonder what other surprises were left on that dusty dash.

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