words: SAME STORY

orange

happiness

shallow

line

SAME STORY

I’ve known the story since second grade,

that terrible year. The teacher checking

our fingernails and handkerchiefs,

teaching nothing but tedium. Gray

and marcelled, as chained as I 

to that small-town school.

The stench of hot-lunch goulash.

White bread spread thick with margarine.

The shallow patch of backlot gravel

where we tried to play. 

 

Reading was my happiness.

Sometimes I was allowed 

to sit on the windowsill with a book.

And where would I have found

such a thing in that barren place?

I can still see the drawing clearly—

the line of the girl’s dress,

the dragon’s orange flame.

And the prince—not St. George, I think—

but it was the same tale—

the monster demanding sacrifice, 

the unexpected release. 

 

WALKING ON MY TOES

How many relicts 

can fit in this room?

Books from my godmother.

A bowl of stones.

A shelf of bears and old dolls.

Boxes of letters.

Mother’s unlabeled photos.

Dad’s work gloves and hammer.

Tante Helen’s table.

 

Once upon a time,

a poster of all the books

a child should read:

Aesop’s Fables.  

Millions of Cats. 

Puck of Pook’s Hill. 

The Iliad for Boys and Girls.  

Dad made the frame the year I was born.

Now it hangs in my grandson’s room.

 

Mother gave me stories,

so many words.

Dad gave me his hands.

How can I be a grandmother already

when I remember so clearly

walking on my toes

holding my father’s hand,

and he dead

for how many years?