Friday, January 28, 2011

1958


I am seven. 

My bike is passed-down, passed around, bent up and beat up 
but it rolls
And when you’re eight that’s all that really matters.

Golden broomsedge ripples in heat,
shimmers in the vacant lot;
blue-flowered chicory
lines the road and closes its petals in resignation.

It is August.

I am riding around our block,
along the sidewalk in front of the houses 
and kept gardens and trees bending 
under the weight of ripe damsons.
Tar bubbles glisten like my mother’s jet earrings
and pop under my tires,
like hot applesauce on the Tappan stove 
in Grandma Compton’s kitchen.

I pass behind her house, 
her orchard of apple trees as old as she is,
Then to the gravel road and the old dump
Where concrete chunks provide habitat for dragonflies and bamboo,
a hiding place 
for girls with sweaty hair and bare feet.
I watch the dragonflies skim over algae-green puddles
And dream of flying, cool in the water’s reflection,
Into the shadows of hidden places where my mother’s voice
Will not reach me. 

Back on my bike I ride
Into the shadow of mulberries, maples, apples and ash.
Dust turns me golden, ghost-like, 
a mirage that shimmers 
in five o’clock heat.

It is 1958.

On a back road in a small town all that matters
 is flying, flying, 
my sunburnt hair streaming behind
my face pushing eagerly ahead
while all the world is rushing by.

This poem was inspired by pulling words out of a bag of paper strips. Each strip contained a different word or phrase--in this case the words I pulled out were blue-flowered chicory, damsons, heat shimmers, bamboo and tar bubbles. Immediately I was back on my rattling bike, riding on a dirt road in mid-August. Funny how words can do that.

9 comments:

Nance said...

hey Sue, I was right there with you, riding that bike on a hot August day. August is my favorite time of year! Especially, while pedaling fast down a hill with my face thrust forward and my pigtails trailing in the wake!

Rowan said...

I love this, it conjures up images of a wonderful country childhood.

Mimi Foxmorton said...

Wow...that just brought to mind a ridiculous blue pedal car that I had. All rusty and dented. And how the faster you pedaled the slower you went!

Thanks fo rthat!

:)

Granny Sue said...

Rowan, surprisingly I was raised in a small town--but the country was just at the end of our street. Everyone in the neighborhood had fruit trees and gardens and many people had chickens too. Almost all of our neighbors were elderly and were so good to us. It was a very good place to grow up. Unfortunately that little town exploded with growth in the 1960's and continues to grow today so that it's not easy to find the places of my childhood today. That growth is what sent me looking for a place in the mountains, and a simpler way of life. I left there in 1974 and have never regretted it.

Janet, said...

That is so neat, Susanna, that you used those words and came up with the poem. I love the poem.

Granny Sue said...

Thank you, Janet. My baggie of words can be a real inspiration sometimes.

Mama-Bug said...

Makes me yearn for those happy carefree days of childhood. When a child could ride their bikes any where and it was safe. Never had a brand new bike it was a passed down from older cousins but I had wheels and a grand imagination!

Nanjemoy Nana said...

took me right back to 1965. :)

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

Granny Sue -- I felt like I was the girl in your poem. I had a special attachment for my bike and rode it incessantly over my small town's roads with my blond hair all wind- blown. Thanks for the poem -- barbara

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