Category Archives: childhood

Snowbound

Blizzard 2014 temp

Here in northern Indiana, it doesn’t take much talk of snow before the conversation turns to the great blizzard of January 1978. I was visiting Goshen, Indiana, when that incredible storm hit. We were cooped up indoors for days. Unforgettable, even for a young child. It was quite overwhelming.
The snow storms of the past few days have been as bad as I can remember for a long time. A good time to sit at the kitchen table and write. Here’s a sestina with my musings on snow and change and hope. Wherever you are tonight, stay warm!

 

Snowbound

I was a witness, a passenger, a caged bird, for the great snow
of seventy-eight. I lived through the cost and chaos, saw the way
the windswept landscape shifted so much you couldn’t find
your bearings ten feet from your front door. One savage, billowing drift
that month took my grandmother’s home in its teeth. This was all new
to me, freshly arrived in these parts, awe-struck as the blizzard ground

on and on outside. Her patio doors, glazed from ground
to ceiling, once so inviting, were now struck white as snow,
the color of dreams, of fate, of oblivion. I never knew
till that awful recognition, how God could wipe away
all trace of humanity from the earth, could let us just drift
free, one tiny speck on the ocean that no one would ever find

again, if not for grace. Appalled, I realized I couldn’t find
my face in the glass, could see no prints on the ground.
Unknowing, I had become a son of Noah, shut in to drift
for days on end, counting my breaths, watching the snow
rise like a flood, dumb as an animal, with no way
to open the hatch, to breathe fresh air, no word of new

land. I learned the fickleness of hope. Perhaps this is what God knew
in shutting the door so tight on Noah and his clan… That to find
a new life, one must first let go for good of the old, give way
to the swelling tide, feel one’s feet swept from the ground
and lose the stars, become a tiny fleck of wind-blown snow,
yielded to providence. One must be willing to drift

on moonlit seas, beyond all maps. How else to learn that we cannot drift
beyond the compass of the divine? Of the one who knew
us long before the morning stars first sang. How else find that there is no
place that we can go where God is not, and no place we will not find
that tell-tale laughter, light as paw prints upon new ground,
the wise dragon voice that tells us others have been this way

before, and this new thing will not lead to death. There was no way
I could have known this forty years ago, before that awful snow drift,
no way to comprehend the majesty of creation as it swept the ground,
no way to know of love, and loss, and life again in better lands. I only knew
that I was a child, one tiny stowaway aboard this ark. It would be years till I would find
the sun and truly trust it. First I would need to climb and fall and climb again, to learn to love the snow.

Now I have returned. Tonight, half a lifetime away, I stand before the window as a new
blizzard hides both sky and ground. Once more, I feel my feet begin to slip, but now I find
no terror. Instead, I laugh and let my soul drift high, yielded to grace, to change, to snow.

 

small steps

I was a small child in the 1960s, when going to the moon went from being a dream to being a reality.  If you asked me where I was when they landed on the moon, I’d tell you I was in a friend’s kitchen, watching from the doorway in my pajamas!

 

small steps

everything was round
the corners of the fridge
the console radio
the bowl covering my head
the high stool with two steps
the smooth calves of my legs
swinging in time to the music
of the electric clippers
the pool of hair at my feet
the fresh pie waiting.

Upstairs I tried to sleep
but the moon called me
back to watch, eyes wide,
hardly comprehending
as the man with the moon-shaped
head stepped down
in black and white
on the tiny screen.

 

1967

The Summer of Love,
I bit my baby-sitter.
She was beautiful.

 

The moon is missing

She is standing at the screen door again,
crying, as she looks up into the night.
The moon is missing.

Just last week she had friends and life was good,
but now she knows better. It is cold and
the moon is missing.

On the beach, the tide is rolling in, with
Venus looking on. It’s not true that
the moon is missing

but she won’t know until she learns to see
she is beautiful, and ready. Only
the moon is missing.

England’s great tradition of painting

They were an hour late,
three likely lads in white shirts
with five cans of paint,
three drop cloths, brushes, rollers,
and, of course, a tea kettle.

Don’t mind us, Missus,
the blue-eyed leader declared,
patting my mum’s arm.
We’ll make ourselves right at home.
You won’t even know we’re here.

I watched from a chair
as they brewed a pot of tea
and surveyed their task.
“Looks a bit dodgy, dunnit?”
one said, and they all nodded.

That decided it.
“Back in the morning, sunshine!”
the oldest one winked,
and quietly handed me
the cards from the tea packet.

Astronaut

My father was a famous astronaut,
A hero from the bright comics I bought
On Saturdays. Sometimes I heard the key
Turn gently in the lock long after we
Had gone to bed. And then my parents fought

Like lovers in my mother’s sheets, but not
Out loud as they might wake the baby. Caught
Between embarrassment and lust to see
     My father was

Still real, I clutched my rocket ship and fought
Back tears. His only letter is what got
Me through those years – to know God and country
Might come first, but he always cared for me
No matter what our friends and neighbors thought
     My father was.

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