My Cardboard Box

Life at 78 (rpm)

with 2 comments

Among the electives I took in college was a class in Poetry. Lord knows why. Maybe it was to meet girls or something.

The professor was somewhat of a minor celebrity in New England (or at least on Cape Cod,) having published several volumes of the schtuff. He had very high standards. Learning to write and read poetry was worse than learning statistics. After a period of initial roughness (like my repeatedly showing up to class hungover), somehow I pulled off a decent passing grade. But as we did our end-of-semester meetings, he told me: “You might want to stay with writing prose.” I wasn’t offended. We stayed in touch for a few years afterwards and I have a volume of his work signed by him put away someplace.

Nearly three decades later, I found this in a box of college papers out in the garage. I don’t think I submitted it because it’s got ‘draft’ written in one corner. Keep in mind that it was written by a 23-year old.

Life at 78 (rpm)

Sun is warm
On the porch
Smell of new-mown grass
I’m five again

Cars pull up
Car doors slam
Children shriek
I know those sounds.

Voices in the hall
Heels on the tiles
Nurse in front of the crowd
“There he is!”

They’re all here
Kids, mine, in-law and grand.
Where is She?
The ache-pain of loss.

“You look good.”
They tell me.
They give gifts
A new robe, a radio

Baby girl placed in my lap
One boy, teenage angst
Scared of this place.
I don’t blame you, kid.

There’s that damn song
“Happy Birthday (Grand)Dad”
They brought cupcakes
I can’t finish mine.

Eldest has a new job
Brings out a map
His brand new state
I can’t recall its name.

Each talks about their lives
They’re so grown up
And I smile.
Honey, we did okay.

All that I am
All that I was
All that I could have been
I see in every face.

I’m eighteen again
I smell fear and hot steel
I hear wedding bells
I can feel Her kiss.

I’m back on the porch
Voices have stopped.
Youngest says “Dad’s tired”
(“And the kids are bored.”)

They kiss me,
pat my hand
I get a hug
“Goodbye, (Grand)Dad. Goodbye.”

Voices fade
A child cries
Car doors slam
Cars drive away.

Sun is warm
On the porch
“Come, time for your nap”
Yes, I’m five again.


Written by PappyBro

September 29, 2013 at 13:42

2 Responses

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  1. Reading that poem made me weep. I don’t know why — maybe because I’ve reached the age where I am acquiring grandchildren, maybe because I’ve been senile and know I will be again one day, that loving relatives will be kind before they leave me to it. Whatever it was, what you wrote in the downy days of your youth hit a nerve hard. The last line is wrong, though. But what 23 year old could possibly know that?

    trailing wife

    February 1, 2014 at 11:00

    • Thanks. That wasn’t exactly a sterling point in my life. Let’s just say there were more funerals than weddings then.


      February 28, 2014 at 19:57

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