Spring has arrived, however begrudgingly, and the young woman pushes the older woman’s wheelchair along the paths of the great park. Neither speaks, but each knows this could be the last time they do this. That shared knowledge paints each flower in a more vibrant hue, each fallen petal is quickly but individually mourned for, its beauty draining back into the soil. The older woman struggles hard to fully capture each view for she knows that it is possible that it will have to last her an eternity.
First Published in Beautiful in the Eye of the Beholder, Sweetycat Press, 2022
Along the banks of the barge canal in the village park, a man older, his hair white, almost a mane, sits on the breakwall feeding Wonder bread to the small flotilla of ducks. Tearing shreds of crust from a slice, he casts it onto the water and smiles as they bob for the crumbs. He tells them the story of his life as though they were his oldest friends. My Anna, he says, was a special woman, I met her one night in the cramped vestibule of an Indian take away in London during a blackout. We heard the sirens and then a blast, not far off. She grabbed my arm in fear. She was from Marlow-on-Thames, she lived in a small flat in the Bottom, she worked days in a millinery, and at night tended bar at the Local, until the war. She’s been gone two years now and I miss her terribly especially late at night. A goose slowly swims over awaiting her meal, she looks deeply into his eyes. How are you, dearest Anna, it is not the same without you late at night when the silence is broken again by the sirens.
First Published in Friends & Friendship Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021
It is the difference I always notice between small and large cities: the parks.
When you sit deeply within Boston Commons or Central Park you can feel the city always threatening to encroach and once again make you its prisoner, smell and hear the city, traffic and trucks rumbling, horns played in a cacophonous symphony.
In small cities you can sit in a park and wonder where downtown could be, distant, a whisper perhaps alwlays unseen, and you can get lost in dreams of childhood smell newly mown grass, and listen unimpeded to the stories the trees are all to willing to tell.
I was only in jail once, then for four hours, no charges and my biggest fear was that my parents would find out, or the cops would determine that I was only 17 and breaking the park curfew was not even a misdemeanor.
They let me go, gave me a ride back to the park, told me not to go in but I wouldn’t at 2 A.M. I assured them, I’d go home and get some slee before reporting to the University for my summer research position.
All these years later I wonder if that was possibly the cell that Joe Hill occupied once, or just what other manner of criminal I might have shared space with, hopefully someone not merely charged with violating park curfew.
The meeting occurred by chance, two old men sitting in the same park staring at the same empty chess board as the waves of the Stygian Sea lapped against the break wall, the ferryman now at the helm of the great cargo ship. “So,” said Hillel, “you come here often?” Old, bent Buddha paused “as far as I know, I have always been here, or perhaps I am not here now, never have been.” “I know the feeling” the ancient Rabbi said “I’ve been here so long, I too have begun to doubt my very existence.” Buddha rubbed his great girth and smiled placidly as a black bird alighted on his shoulder. The Rabbi stroked his beard the stood on one foot, only to have two bluejays land, one on each arm. “Would you care to join me,” he asked, “for a meal at Ming’s or if you prefer, we can do take out from the Dragon Palace, whatever suits your mood, in any event, my treat this time.” The saffron robed old man unfolded himself, and erect and bowing, said “It would honor me to dine with you but if you wouldn’t mind I’d much prefer a bowl of chicken soup with kreplach and a pastrami on rye.”
What I want, no, need actually, is to remember the smells of youth. The images I can recall, but they are aged pictures, run repeatedly through the Photoshop of memory, and cannot be trusted only desired.
The old, half ready to fall oak, in the Salt Lake City park had a faint pungency that lingered even as I departed my body as the acid kicked in, and drew me back from the abyss hours later,
and my then wife, cradling our first born in the hospital bed, the scent of innocence and sterility that neither of us dared recognize as a foretelling of our denouement.
Those moments are lost in the sea of time, washed away from memory’s shore, but the smell of a summer oak still promises a gentle return to self.
My mother used to say, about most anything, “Stop, you’ve had your fill.” It was something she did by rote, dictated I was certain then, by some timer buried deep within her that brought forth the phrase like the beep of an oven timer to indicate whenever she was baking was certain to be just slightly underdone. I didn’t listen to her, of course, just paid the lip service of which children are the acknowledge masters. I still hear her voice echoing the phase as i walk through the park each morning stopping to gaze at whatever new has come into bloom, the patterns of the clouds over the hills to the south, the conversation of the birds who only think i don’t understand, but i never get my fill of the beauty before me.
She wants to know why the oriole we sometimes see in the park never visits our backyard feeder. I remind her that she isn’t usually here, only visits occasionally, but she says that I would have told her if I saw one. She says I got excited when I saw the one in the park during our walk. She is right, of course, I would have told her but all I see at the feeders are finches of several sorts, doves and wrens, and when he wants particularly to be seen as he often does, one cardinal who is far less interested in the seed than in having a perch in plain sight, and when he knows were watching, upthrusts his fiery crest and spreads his wings. I tell her cardinals are such show offs. She is seven, laughs and says yes they are, just like grandfathers, don’t you think.