Childhood Dream

Long ago
Long before the dawn of his youth
Lived a boy, a young boy
A boy who had a dream
A childhood dream.
He would lay at the forest glade
And gaze, gaze in wonder
At the peculiar workings of the earth.
He would count all the birds of the sky
Wander into the dark forest deep
Stroll by the humming river
And paint with all the colors of the earth.
The night’s inner glow,
The wild’s cheerful tune;
All of earth’s splashy marvel
Would prompt his thoughts
To travel the world
In search of a secret.
The blue waters of the Pacific seemed a decent start, he thought
Perhaps a swim in the depths of Waikiki Beach
Or a hike up Mt. Rainier
A stroll in the scenic wonderlands of Northern Idaho
Maybe a nice dinner in Broadmoor Hotel at Colorado Springs
Or build a cabin in Minnesota’s lake country
A day picnic at Mt. Chocorua
A quick walk down Boston Common
Or a Tulip time at Bronx,
Drifted his mind.
Bend of Susquehanna, Cayuga Lake, Chesapeake Bay, Rehoboth Beach
Flashed upon his sight.
Then one day, not long ago
To his surprise
He found the secret
Veiled in one who owns his heart.

©2016 Marrion Kiprop

The Neighborhood Has Seen Better Days

This is a piece I wrote using the writing prompt, “The Neighborhood Has Seen Better Days.”

I’m twelve. Feels like I’ve been twelve forever. Time has been standing still this whole, hot steamy summer. There’s been plenty of chances to sit here on my steps and watch the cars whizz by. Oh, but the motorcycles. They are wonderful. Most people today ride without helmets. Hair flying about. Tee-shirts. Shorts. So cool. So absolutely dangerously cool. I’m so happy lately, living in a fine house with a wonderful mom, belly full, shoes on my feet. Plenty of shoes. Pretty shoes. Lots of dresses and dollies and teddy bears. My room is so nice and warm and purple. I think I even have six pillows. There’s nothing I love better than to climb up on my bed and bury myself in my blankets and dream of days when the neighborhood was a nicer place.

But today, right now, I am sitting on my stoop watching Mrs. Pauley argue with a man in a black suit holding a piece of paper. I remember playing hopscotch with Mrs. Pauley’s kids, racing bikes around the block, selling lemonade at our corner stand, and lazily brushing the dog on her front porch. Lilly, her middle daughter, was my best friend. I had her over to my house for a sleepover at least half-a-dozen times. Lilly kind of liked Tom, Ernie Conrad’s son. Ernie Conrad ran the neighborhood barber shop. My brother Steve was good friends with Tom. They spent many hot summer days in the air-conditioned shop reading Archie comics and sucking on Tootsie Roll Pops. The shop had mirrors on both walls, and the boys would stand and look at themselves in the never-ending reflections. Tiny copies of themselves over and over without end.

But poor Mrs. Pauley. She is right in the middle of trying to live her life. Raising a family of six. Happily married. Always smiling. Buying Girl Scout cookies. Feeding the birds. Serving as a Block Parent. A regular at PTA. Taking us to the community swimming pool, and even braving the cold in December to take us ice skating. A mom’s mom. A real nice lady. So it was very sad when her husband passed away. He had a great job at the railroad. My dad said Mr. Pauley made a lot of money. Things were fine at first, then the trouble started. The two-car family soon became a one-car family. My friend Lilly started going hungry. She ate at our house a lot. She told me her brothers and her sister were living with Mrs. Pauley’s parents. Notices started being posted on the front door. The porch wasn’t swept. Someone stole the wicker chairs. The windows remained filthy. I didn’t see Lilly as much. In fact, she missed a lot of school.

Which brings me to the afternoon I was sitting on the front steps of my porch. It was hot out. No air was moving. Mrs. Pauley was standing in the doorway, looking rather upset. There was a policeman and a county sheriff standing on either side. A man with a briefcase and handful of papers was arguing with Mrs. Pauley. She was starting to cry. I could tell the county sheriff was being sympathetic. Mrs. Pauley pleaded one last time, asking “Isn’t there something I can do?” The official-looking man in the dark suit shook his head no and reached out to post a paper on the door. I could see what it said from across the street. NOTICE TO VACATE.

I looked up and down the street. Trash littered the gutters. A car sat in front of Mr. Baker’s house with four flat tires. There was an empty lot where Ernie Conrad’s barber shop used to be. Most of the front porches were piled up with old furniture, busted exercise equipment and beat-up bicycles. There were broken mini blinds in the windows, and many had no curtains.

It seems the neighborhood had seen better days.

©2015 Steven Barto

Advent

Weekday mornings on Bald Eagle Street
I waited for the bus. On winter days, I’d hide
by the dryer vent at the side of our house,
cupping warmth in woolen gloves, as inside
mom washed socks and jeans and sheets.

Saturdays I’d hide inside, close my eyes,
lean back against the machine. My feet tucked
into an empty laundry basket, I huddled up
to the hum and heat, soothed by the beat
of its rocking cycle, safe in my make-shift cave.

In those moments the world was my own,
and small enough to see—the narrow walk
between our house and Aunt Cindy’s, a slice
of the street, a glimpse of backyard promise—
even though the swing set was covered in ice.

There were tunnels through the snow
back there, for me to escape or defend.
Long white ledges lined with snowballs,
ammo, gradually amassed, a fortress to stand
against armies, or brothers, or any other foe.

By David J. Bauman

David’s poems have appeared in San Pedro River Review, Contemporary American Voices, Blue Hour Magazine, and T(OUR), among other places. He has poems recently published or forthcoming in Yellow Chair Review, and Watershed: A Journal of the Susquehanna. He’s a winner of the University Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and editor of Word Fountain, the Literary Magazine of the Osterhout Free Library. He is a former co-worker of mine at the Priestley Forsyth Memorial Library and a good friend.

All the Words by Jewel

All the words I wish your fingers could feel

all the times I’ve wished
you could know
the silent sorrow
lying stiff in my throat
like cold
and broken teeth.

I wish you could hear
the child that cries
in my flesh and makes
my bones ache.

I wish you could speak to my fear.

I wish you could hold me
in your arms like oceans
and soothe what my muscles remember
all the bruises, all the sour hope
all the screams and scraped knees
the cloudy days so dark
I wondered if my eyes
were even open.

The days that I felt
like August, and that I, too
would soon turn
to Fall.

Swing

My good friend David J. Bauman has been a poet for longer than I know. I had the privilege of working with him at the Priestley-Forsyth Memorial Library in Northumberland, PA for about a year before he took a position at the Plains Township Library. Seems I met David at the right time in my career (life?). He taught me a great deal about poetry and coached me in establishing and maintaining this blog of mine.

I’ve been writing poems since I was a teenager. Many of them never saw daylight. They remained closed up in old journals, existing but unrealized. Forgotten. (Several never even made the journey out of my imagination, down the pen and unto paper.) Meeting David, however, quickened something in me. Words and phrases that had suffered sequestration due to lack of rectitude somehow found a rebirth. I began to believe that my words had meaningfulness.

But this post is not about me. Rather, it is about showcasing a poem David wrote which has found a well-deserved home in Contemporary American Voices, a journal of poetry. June 1, 2014. I know you’ll enjoy it.

Swing

While I was waiting
for the bus, Miss Shaffer said
“Get off the gate!
It’s not for swinging.”

But I knew better.

Another, on the playground—
I don’t recall her name,
But she yanked
me by the arm, right off

the swing set, and screamed,
“Don’t call me ‘old Lady!’”
I was only trying to yodel
(Yodaladie, yodaladie…).

And one time I wasn’t doing anything,
so I was sent to the principal’s office.
That was when days were for doing
nothing when you could.

When swings were for singing
anything that came to mind.
Fences were just in the way
and every kid knew the truth;

gates do that for a reason,
and it goes against nature
not to swing them.

Snow Shoveling and Hot Fudge Sundaes

I grew up in Sunbury, PA back in the mid sixties early seventies. Just like most kinds, I often did odd jobs to raise a few dollars. I received an allowance, but I wanted to earn more. It is for this reason that I started a paper route. It went well until someone started stealing my customers’ payments from under their front porch rugs. I never did find out who it was. It cut in to my profits enough that I quit the route.

I often shoveled sidewalks in the winter to earn money. It was a lot of fun. I would get bundled up and head out. I had a lot of repeat customers, and usually benefited from word of mouth. I took an ice chopper with me and did a very thorough job. Typically, I earned five dollars per sidewalk. Sometimes I would shovel up to six sidewalks before I quit. It all depended on how frozen I was.

On one occasion I shoveled sidewalks with my brother. When we got done we headed down to Market Street to J.J. Newberry’s. They had a luncheonette which served ice cream. I ordered a hot fudge sundae and my brother ordered a banana split. Strange, you might say. It was winter, blizzard conditions outside, and we were sitting at the counter at Newberry’s eating ice cream. Mom thought we were crazy, but we didn’t mind the cold at all. Well, that is not until we went back outside in clothes wet from snow and sweating from the activity. The damp cold would go right through us. We would walk home after ice cream and change into dry clothes and drink hot chocolate.

My brother and I had a soft spot for animals growing up. We joined the Junior A.S.P.C.A. We would go around the neighborhood looking for animals in distress. We also cleaned up roadkill and gave the critters a proper burial. Dad made us a small placard painted white with strips of red reflector tape. I hooked a wagon to my bicycle and headed out. We called our service the Animal Rescue Squad. When we found a dead animal, we’d stop and put our placard out. I’d put on a pair of gardening gloves and pick up the critter, placing it in the wagon.

We were in the middle of a rescue operation one day near the veterinary office in our block when we saw an elderly lady wandering around calling for her cat. It had jumped from her arms on her way in to the veterinarian. We immediately jumped into action, helping her look for the cat. We found it after twenty minutes and brought it back to her. She was overjoyed. She opened her purse and got out her wallet, offering us a reward. We turned it down, saying we only wanted to help out of our love for animals. She asked for our mailing address so she could send us a thank you card. Five days later we received an envelope with a card in it. Inside was a check for fifty dollars!

Guess what we did to celebrate? Yep. We went to Newberry’s and had ice cream. Our rescue squad adventures were never meant to be a way to earn money. It just worked out in this instance. We wrote a letter to the Junior A.S.P.C.A. describing our rescue of the lady’s cat, and they published a notice in the monthly newsletter. We were beaming with pride. Our rescue efforts had taken on a new meaning. Not only did we remove dead animals from the streets in our neighborhood, we also helped people look for lost pets. To this day, I have a place in my heart for animals.