Going Over Old Times

Aunt Velma schooled us we should run in the field
when we got worked up, so as not to raise dust
in the house, which somehow managed always
to be just swept. So there we were,
playing at jousting, with Petey and Mort
on their invisible steeds they didn't want
to call just horses, holding branch lances
and going for each other like they hadn't
forgotten all the doublescrosses
they'd laid for each other in the past.
The dog and me were referee.

When everyone tired of knights we turned
to the day, like a grocer's thumb
on the earth. Even the trees which burst
out in yellow every so often
(you could smell "caution" on quiet days)
were grey, no buds, like spindly clouds.
I had a dog once looked like that,
the runt; he passed away unnoticed
almost, cause he was barely there
anyway. This was a runty day.

We fooled around the barn a good deal,
swinging on the rope from the rafters.
Mom brought it from Ohio where her Ma and Pa
used to tie it to the porch railing
in winter so you wouldn't get lost walking
from the house to the barn in a blizzard.
We all used it so we wouldn't stray
from the farm into the woods like we were tempted
to do on dumb days. Mom called it
"a headiness" that came over you in there,
so you'd walk for months without flagging,
and Percy and me knew it was the jays
who called you on and on from your home.
Even jays themselves have no home,
they've called each other away, following
those raggy cries up and down
from Salinas to Winnipeg. At any rate,
we kids stayed in the barn till suppertime.

And rain, which had been listening to the arguments
of gravity all the way down, hit
the drainpipe and said "Okay yessiree,"
agreeing to try the dry old earth for a spell.
We heard it during dessert, don't you know.

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