—Photo and poem by
Ronald Edwin Lane, Weimar
I remember swimming in a lake
With other children
And one cried “SNAKE!”
And all came bounding onto shore
With sunny faces
Painted with grins
Afraid no more
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Where have the children ghosted off to now?
This micro-theme park has its ingredients:
a treehouse and ladder shaded by strong boughs.
But no kids. What weird disobedience,
kids taking recess from recess. Unseen eggs
brood no unknowns here. No strangers, no deviants,
and yet we see not one bare skinny leg
slide, slip, or shinny down the yellow slide.
No scream or outcry or cackle on which to peg
the comfort: Children are playing. Could it be hide-
and-go-seek? The eye-slits on that cat-faced shield
of burl know something; what, Cat won’t confide.
Don’t waifs and urchins know better than to yield
that arena of scuffle and mock-battle, play?
No foot deranges the redwood-chip-strewn field,
no elbow skews the treehouse-boards asplay.
The shingles, gingerbread overbites, make wry
mouths of disquiet. Moms and dads are away:
for now, or for good? Some rapture, softer than sly,
has left this ladder and slide like a child’s question.
See how they join in an open-ended Y?
—Richard Zimmer, Sacramento
Buddy, a six-foot Magic Rabbit, lives by
the sea in a green and yellow playhouse.
Living alone, he searches the whole world
over, hoping to find some playful company.
When Buddy travels to meet Penny, a little
girl in Kansas, who has no friends, she looks
up at him and asks if he’s the Easter Bunny.
“No,” he says, “I work all year long.”
He asks Penny who lives next door to her.
She sadly says, “No one now, it’s empty.”
Buddy jumps over the back fence and meets
two invisible children on the back porch.
He asks their names, and they say they’re
Deedee and Dora, Betsy’s imaginary friends,
and they’re waiting for her to come home.
Buddy goes back to Penny and tells her that.
Penny says Betsy had moved away. Buddy
wipes tears from his big pink eyes and tells
her, “Sometimes when children grow up,
they forget about their imaginary friends.”
Penny seems to understand, and says, “They
can come over and play with me. I’m all by
myself, just mama and me.” Deedee and Dora
jump over the fence and join Penny in play.
A job well done, Buddy thinks, as he leaves
the happy children and goes on his way.
—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento
bulge with flashbacks,
toothless ear-to-ear grins
blunting life’s raw edges
—Anthony Buccino, Nutley, NJ
We had hard times back then, I tell you.
The Russians beat us into space
and a thing called a computer
was the size of a classroom.
Almost every TV was in black and white
and once a week, on Sunday night
we visited the rich family
to watch the Disney show fireworks
on NBC In Living Color.
Our rivers were corroded from the poisons
we dumped in them for decades
and if you couldn’t walk across the river
you had to hold your nose on the bridge.
One day, you can look it up, a river
in Cleveland got so polluted it caught fire.
We ate red M&Ms til the cows came home
and baked on the beaches until our skin
turned bright red, burned and peeled away.
School kids hid during drills under wooden desks
in the event of a nuclear holocaust.
In science class we held mercury and felt its
heavy weight as it rolled around in our palms.
We had a game to play outside in every season,
baseball, football, tag, Sputnik dodge ball.
We learned to count by fives in hide-and-seek,
and we stayed out in summer under street lights
until the mosquitoes came out for dinner.
And in the daylight of summer, we ran
behind the mosquito man spraying as we inhaled
the mist in the lingering cloud of DDT til we gagged.
We had it all back then, I tell you
but we were innocent, or stupid, take your pick
we had no idea how bad we had it
we took rides from strangers
hitch-hiked to places unknown
and experimented with every new kind
of poison that might make us smile,
keeping us blissfully unaware
of the toxins everywhere
while we awaited the big bang
so the earth could start over again.
HOW TO MOW A LAWN
“There’s an art to mowing the giant lawn
of ours,” my father said when I was ten.
We had moved here in October
and the new spring exposed
the six thousand square feet of side lot
grass growing in varying shades of green.
Dad read the Lawn Boy manual
and its helpful hints on how to mow.
He read the manual so he could show me
what he’d read when he turned
the vibrating rail to my eager young hands.
The first cut, you take straight and slow,
it’s inhaling a lot of grass, so go easy
and it won’t jam up the blade or stall.
When you turn to take your second pass,
line up with long grass under one half
of this Lawn Boy chassis
and you can move along quite well.
Turn and repeat until you run out of gas.
The power Lawn Boy carried a clip catcher;
and with our log lawn just one pass
was all it took to need emptying.
That stop, detach, empty, re-attach
slowed things down a lot.
And it wasn’t long into the first hour
on that first day on that new lawn
in the new home on Carpenter Street,
well, it wasn’t long before the thrill
of using the power mower gave over to boredom.
Just two more hours with that little mower
and I could join my friends and have some fun.
Thirteen years later, I’d mow Mom’s grass
then haul the mower to my own house,
cut and repeat through the weekends.
Every few years for the next ten
one of us was getting a new mower
that I could haul back and forth.
As I mowed into a cathartic mood
when the intensity of the row of grass ahead,
that turn, that familiar root, that rock
and the endless vibration on my hands
that still shook long after I’d finished,
in that roaring quiet I heard my Dad
quoting from the manual, how to cut on a hill,
and each week when you mow this grass
you should go at right angle to the week before.
Now, with only one lawn, these crippled hands
can barely hold the pen as I write
a check to the landscaper.
LITTLE PIECES OF CHILDHOOD
—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento
Working, tending, coping, everything
except playing. Those unspent childhood hours
could not be saved in a piggy bank.
Instead they mellow, rot, and unceremoniously
slip away from a maturing body, never to return.
Grown men and women try to revisit
the childhood that they didn’t have—
but it’s all brand new, not even déjà vu,
and this time they are TOO LARGE to fit in.
Fueled by money and motive,
they dwell in excess at toy shops
and candy shops. Soon that gets older
than they already are. Expensive mirrors
only reveal the frowns of grownups
looking for cheap grins.
Despite the short hand they were dealt,
some still find fulfillment by cheering
the hearts of others, giving them time
to spend as a child. Like a bird building
a nest, twig by twig, they construct a fond
memory from little pieces of childhood.
Never let go the reins of the wild colt of the heart.
—Japanese Buddhist proverb