A Community Poem by Cloudburst Council poets, 2016
Like swirling leaves, memories keep dancing back.
My father picks me up, tells me my mother and new brother are up in the high hospital windows. I study each one but can’t find her.
I stand by the huge, steaming locomotive, the B&N Yankee, restrained by arms intent on saving a three-year-old me, and I am outraged at salvation—and still am.
I am three, sister Pat still a baby, and Kathy not yet born, when we must move out of our tiny apartment and into Aunt May’s house. I get to ride there with Aunt Margie and Uncle Frank and hold this memory for my younger sisters.
My braids too tight, my new seersucker sundress making crinkles on my legs, we finally arrive at Cousin Henry’s house with shoes neither on my feet nor in our 1948 Hudson. From her wheelchair, Henry’s girl offers me the shoes on her feet, and I think not! I’d rather go barefoot, but I’ve shamed my mother. Why?
Walking down the street, dressed in my best and my hand in my daddy’s, I am going to have my picture taken to celebrate turning three. I am feeling beautiful and loved.
Sitting on a pinto pony, I am in cowboy boots and western hat, having my photograph taken.
Standing behind the garage wall, I step out into a sharp wind that bites my face. I step back behind the wall, and the wind stops. I have mastered this piece of my universe.
I eat sweets from a crinkly white bag on the back ledge behind my seat in our friends’ 1940s automobile.
Watching the Dodgers with my father in 1955, he makes me think my team has won though he knows about all of their losses.
One Christmas in Ohio, I am sitting in a brown plastic laundry basket next to the Christmas tree.
I am in first grade, at recess, and I and my friends sit in white and purple clover blossoms, catching honeybees and eating their flowers.
We kids spend the day at the beach collecting stones. I pick the tiny, shiny, sparkly, pretty-colored ones. Less discerning, my siblings choose larger ones, filling the front passenger floor of our Studebaker and leaving no place for Mom’s feet. Dad refuses to move until we kids jettison our ballast, returning our carefully chosen treasures to the sea.
A hurricane swept up the East Coast in my first year of life and as my mother recalled the coffins piled in the Boston streets during the flu epidemic of 1918. So I saw the tree leaning against the three-story porches of the Dorchester house.
The War is over—let’s go to NYC to see the parade—gas rations—shoe rations too—and I unhappy with my new Buster Browns—(preferred Mary Janes™ which were refused) so I tossed them out the window 1x1 and for good measure my baby brother’s too—for 17 miles along Route 9-W on the way home.