Thursday, August 4, 2016

Brotherly verses

I have two brothers, both older than I, and lately I have found myself thinking of them and even dreaming about them. Writing is my way of examining my life, so two poems emerged from my memories. With your indulgence, two brotherly poems:

Batter up

I watched you in the yard
by the gravel driveway
swinging that thirty-five inches of oak flooring.
You’d toss a small white rock from the driveway
and swat it out of sight.
You could stand there for hours.
“Batting rocks,” you called it.
Your “bat” was chewed on one end by all those rocks
that you sent soaring beyond our sight
and smoothed by strong hands and sweat
on the other end.
Did you see the hayloft of the old barn
as Fenway Park’s left field wall?
The barn’s tin roof as Yankee Stadium’s parapets?
Or were you only thinking
of the limits life gave you
the smallness of the town
the lack of opportunities.
No talent scouts or position coaches
were there to bring out your potential.
In the evening twilight you’d stand out there
swinging, swinging,
the crack of rock against wood the only sound.
It could not have been for conditioning
that you smacked at rocks with a puny stick.
If not daydreams of baseball greatness
what kept you there in that side yard by the gravel drive?
Were you planning your escape or striking back
at smooth igneous rocks that could blast your frustrations
over that old barn and far beyond?
The rocks are gone, covered by asphalt.
The house where we shared a room is also gone.
But when I hear the crack of a bat, I still see you
tossing white rocks and batting them over the barn.


The Long Drive

Those days and miles must have been long

in the days when interstates were not on the maps.

The two-lane roads stretched to the tree-lined horizon

and trudged through towns more squalid than quaint

with their stoplights and speed traps.

You found your way through turns left and right

mandated by numbers and arrows and the occasional word.

At first just the two of you and your simmering impatience,

then the children, added 1, 2, 3, 4 in rapid succession,

requiring larger cars to haul the family over all those miles.

And return home with a trunk full of Cheerwine.

You must have left early to arrive by mid-afternoon

at the house where you grew up,

its residents running outside to greet you

as you stiffly emerged from the car after eight or nine hours.

We made that trip at least once before I could drive

speeding through the night with packed food and drinks,

the static on the radio the only thing keeping us awake

as we traveled those same two lanes in the other direction.

In rural darkness I searched for stars and the Milky Way.

It would have been easy for you to stay close to home,

to vacation with your children at a nearby beach or park.

Instead, you showed them whence you came,

a little house flanked by fields and woods

that you knew by sight and sound and smell and feel

in a world held together by parents we all had left behind.

Your road trips showed those children your fiery impatience

and also your loyalty, compassion and love.

July 25, 2016

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Hal. I always appreciate your sharing times on the farm or with my Dad. - Sean