Total Pageviews

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Elm Avenue

There are no elm trees on Elm Avenue, anymore.
There used to be, back when Dale and Mary Alice
and all the rest of us were growing up,
in the so-called good old days in Okauchee, WI.

We were worried about the Russkies,
building shelters underground, stocking them
with Spam and water and some kind of hard bread,
lots of Anacin and Band-aids.
We should have been worried about the Dutch,
those tulip-growing, windmill-loving ice skaters,.
We’d blame them later for what happened to our trees.

We were worried about polio, too.
We all knew about iron lungs and braces, and
we all had a classmate or relative on crutches.
We weren’t worried when the doctor made his house call,
cigarette in his mouth.
We should have been, worried that is,
and we should have wondered why no lady doctors came around.

Our parents bought a new car every year.
They worried about losing face,
about keeping up with the neighbors.
The neighbors, of course, were all white.
We weren’t worried about what was happening with negroes.
We didn’t know any, didn’t know anything about them.
We didn’t know anything about brown and red and yellow races, as well.
That didn’t worry us either.

We all knew gay men and women.
None of us knew that we knew them.
Nothing to worry about there.
We were occupied with the things that really mattered,
like acne and masturbation and girdles and bras.
We weren’t worried about STD’s,
but owning a condom was still a big deal for boys with no clue.

We were all poor, at least against
the rich folks across the lake,
the Pabst’s and Miller’s and Johnson Cookies people,
the ones always last to pay their grocery bills.
In it together,
being poor didn’t worry us, and
we took pleasure in simple things,
like swimming and tag and the free movies
in the park on Saturday night.

Our heroes were athletes and actors,
local folks like Johnny Logan and Tony Curtis.
We didn’t worry about scandal then,
our heroes too true to make the
tarnished footprints of the future.
We might have worried about that,
propping them up,
only to knock them down,
but we didn’t.

There are no elm trees on Elm Avenue, anymore.
But, there are pine trees and firs and maples, even birches,
the ones we planted before we knew the elms would go.
We were not worried about the future when we did that.
We just put them in the ground, bought hammocks,
and waited.
Nothing to worry about.
Nothing at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment