THE PLACE TO BE–OR NOT

Some people like neat suburbs.  I always am attracted to the rundown and the old and the offbeat.  –William S. Burroughs–

The place to be?
A good place to die?
Empty eyes ignored
Just like before
Escape–break free
From reality!
Somewhere else
Less perfect
Less sky-high
Less Fourth of July
Where, there were
More slices of life
And, less graffiti

After hump day
Downhill slide
Post-vacation
Blue highway, blues
Lulled to sleep, by
Bumps, tar strips
Weaknesses, magnified
Sky blended with sea
Happiness was possible
But, just as likely, not
Onward to paradise, as
Banal, led the bland

Defenses bolstered
Because, anything said
At that moment
Could be construed
As offensive
by some, sensitive
Soul, somewhere
Because, those
In the know
Wanted me to know!
Crimeless victims
Protested the loudest
That was then
This was now!

To old to rock and roll
Went with the flow
Yippee-skipped
Through suburbia
While, wind tousled
What was left, of
Rapidly thinning hair
Played familiar games
With same expectations
There were no clouds
In the sky, on the day
After, the night before
It didn’t matter anymore

 

FRONT PORCH

front porch

Neighbors
Mostly, kept
To themselves
Watched, only
To see, if
Ms. Mary
Came out, on her
Front porch, today

She sat, in the
Same, kitchen
Chair,  on cool
Mornings and
Evenings, until
Bugs, no-see-ums
Became, too
Much, to bear

Chrome-plated
Legs, continued
A slow oxidation
Orange-yellow-green
Vinyl upholstery
Stylish during, the
Brady Bunch era
Was brittle
And, cracked

Gravel trucks
From the nearby
Quarry, rolled by
It sure was hot
Ms. Mary, reached
For the flyswatter
White dust billows
Settled everywhere 

Going Home Again

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.

–Heraclitus–

After returning from military service and securing my first job, I moved away from Chesterfield, Illinois, my hometown.  Chesterfield was a community in decline since World War II.  The “Farmers Coop Elevator” was the tallest building in town.  A railroad had come and gone.  It was bypassed by major highways.  Now, it was just a bedroom community.

Downtown Chesterfield 1966 (2)

Chesterfield square, depicted looking west and north, circa mid-sixties

I approached from the south on State Route 111, crossed the bridge over Bear Creek.  The old narrow bridge had been replaced with a soulless concrete monolith.  My Grandpa and I survived a motor vehicle accident on the old bridge in the early fifties.  I was only four, but the memory is still fresh.  My Grandfather reached over to pull me in from leaning too far out the window of the blue Chevy pickup and lost control.  The freshly harvested wheat spilled over the highway.

farmers coop

Prairie “skyscraper”

My nostalgic daydreaming continued as I passed My Uncle Pete and Aunt Leta’s farmhouse on the right, just south of town.  The farmhouse stood forlorn in disrepair with broken windows.  Now, it only sheltered raccoons, squirrels, and owls.  The big white barn burned down several decades ago.  I recalled games of croquet in the backyard on summer evenings.  Uncle Pete was Grandpa’s brother–he was always quiet and reserved.  Aunt Leta took in ironing for my mother.

1950 chevy pu

Chevy pickup similar to my Grandfather’s

Large piles of gravel stood on the former grade school property.  Children’s voices no longer echoed as they played “Red Rover.”  No long lines of yellow school buses waited mornings and afternoons.  The principal, Mr. Reynolds, no longer walked the halls.  He taught me how to do perspective drawings.  Mrs. Keele and Miss Wade, second and fourth grade teachers, weren’t there either.  Nobody cared that I had the role of a “Barnyard Turkey” in a second grade production of “The Ugly Duckling.”

old school busesThere was nothing left but ghosts and memories.  For the first few years, I returned to Ken’s Barbershop for haircuts.  It allowed me to stay in touch.  After my parents passed away, visits became infrequent.  Years quickly changed to decades.  Each visit witnessed more vacant storefronts.  No amount of wishful thinking would ever return things to their former glory.  Things changed due to competition and obsolescence.

Still, my mind’s eye pictured my hometown the way it used  to be.  …The two service stations–one north and one south.  …Chester Towses’ Drugstore with penny candies, a quarter bought a sack full.  …Two grocery stores, one north of the square, one to the east.  …The Chesterfield State Bank with Kenneth Woods at the helm.  …The Alton Way Hotel.  I’m ever grateful for life-lessons taught by teachers and others.  Most, if not all, have gone on to their eternal rewards.

Searching For Relevance

Uniqueness

Hidden in obliqueness

Far as the eye could see

Newcomers

Different drummers

Too many Indian summers

___________

Closed rooms

Cuspidors, chamber pots

It was too much

Too soon

Intelligence, ambivalence

Searched for relevance

___________

Blue eyes

Color of winter skies

Broken hearts

Stripped for parts

Criticism

Hidden in witticisms

___________

Leathery hands

Tried to understand

Blue chambray shirts

Smelled of sweat and dirt

Rusted old pump

Rested down by the barn

____________

Not happy

Not sad

Somewhere

In between

Words void of feeling

Words with no meaning