artwork: ralph murre
by John Flynn
Within the shaggy cottonwood yard
A lengthened sun-drenched patch of sod was found
And planted with white wooden posts
Whose grounded ends were dipped and stuck
With creosote borrowed from the railroad.
Crossbars were notched and set upon the tops.
Stretched between, the wires—
new and blued,
without the curls and
kinks that age
and almost daily
use would bring—
Bobbed and hummed
And gave the sun
New tracks for it
To run upon.
Each weeksworth of childhood’s dirt
Was worried out in a swollen tub
Whose agitator pounded time
Like a galley master gone berserk.
Detergent surged across the rim
And dabbled down enamelled sides.
A willing child’s imaginings could rampage
Through this hydrophobic scene,
Witness as the squinch-browed troll
Staggered stiffly through its death throes
And spurted soiled water through its nose.
Bed sheets hung with wooden pins
And slung from separate lines
Bloomed as the summer wind
Swooped between the pinioned sides.
From the porch the washline
Rigged out in bedclothes
Looked for all the world a ship
From some exotic myth
Floating flatly on a grass green sea.
To the boy, strolling lightly
On her spongy decks,
The dampened slabs of sail
Soothed and caressed him
And coddled dreams.
During one such topside stroll,
Sailing off a southern shore
He’d one day recognize,
He shouted greetings to a new bird
Borne from a sea-side cliff.
He watched aghast
The callow, sentient heart
On stiffened wings
Drill smaller circles in the calid sky
And failing, merge into the pageantry.
Lifesworth of family’s laundered clothes
Dripped dry and bleached
Beneath the prairie sun;
And greened coarse grass and softened it
So in the dark barefoot you still could tell
Just where you were and raising arm
Catch up and follow to the end.
Then use the washline’s weathered bars
To hang upon and tease the stars.
~ previously published in Cottonwood Yard