Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lost and Found

Lost and Found

The side of a highway in September,
ankle-high grass brushed with dew,
and we are in the second mile of our walk,
Two cold men, volunteers with a thankless duty,
collecting trash along the roadway.

Lugging our mostly full shoulder-slung bags,
the risen sun at our backs,
we discover that someone lost a flag –
a miniature American flag,
maybe six inches wide and four tall,
attached with staples to a thin wooden stick.

Every item found had, until this point,
faced the same destiny –
to be gripped by our dampened yellow gloves,
then plunked into the pitiless blue bags.
But now this.

My partner in sanitation,
a short and muscled man with graying
strands sneaking from below his cap,
looked at it for a moment, 
waving it a little in his hands
then continued along the shoulder
holding the patriotic emblem
between the fingers of his bag-laden hand
as we proceeded with our cleanup.

It was a cumbersome job,
or at least seemed to be,
to watch him keep the flag at full staff
while still reaching for trashy bits in the grass.
A few hundred yards later, where we paused
to tie our bags and unsettle new ones,
my companion in this lonesome job
without a word crossed the ditch and worked the flag stick
between the taut tentacles of a barbed wire fence.

Standing back, we watched the banner,
the tiny emblem of our freedom and nation,
ruffling in a morning zephyr of the plains.
Chins upheld, indivisible, we stood in reverence.

A sigh, cleared throat, the unfurling of new bags,
and we bent again to our labor.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Trip

     In October, my grandmother is taking a bus trip to Branson, Missouri with a few other women from her small town. Over a dinner of braised beef I shared with her the other night, she told me of the scheduled events that she was looking forward to, which included the hours-long trip with the other women. 
     "A bunch of widows talkin' about the good ole days - that's all it'll amount to," she said, wiping her glasses. "But you know what? I kind of enjoy that." 
     Since then, the idea for this poem has been on my mind, so I decided to give it some legs this afternoon. I imagine it will go something like this.

The Trip

Along Route 24 in Kansas.
A cool October morning.

Light the color of a peacock’s plumes
skips off Perry Lake
and into the windows of a
silver vacation bus
eastbound for Branson.

Near the middle, gray-headed and gabby,
two widows.

The power poles he used to climb
leap from sight on the right,
and the cars he used to drive
slide by on the left.

And now, bustling toward the Missouri line,
they are, one puts it,
taking the trip he’d always said they
couldn’t afford.
Couldn’t afford the time,
the money.

There had always been trousers to iron
for the next day’s work,
too much to be done
at work and at home.

Even so, those days had been good ones,
the other says, because even with
the dishpans, vacuums, laundry, and meals,
there also had been always a man
to kiss goodbye each morning,
and always time to anticipate,
much like they do now,
a reunion with him
at the end of
the day

Yes, the first says.
Yes, those were fine days.

And the creases
in the corners of her eyes
are not the only reminders.