Summer Memories

In my memory “the girls”, my sisters, hid daily in our next-door neighbor’s pine paneled basement. Those older kids, almost teenagers, played whole-heartedly. All summer. The Game Of Life. Clue. Cootie. Cribbage. Endless Monopoly games.

As a kid of five or six they grudgingly allowed me to tag along to the basement refuge my sisters loved. I promised to be quiet and swore not to be annoying. The sweet boy-next-door, a young teenager, tossed me over the sofa back into the fluffy pillows. I loved that the most. Then he dove himself with a laugh and Fosbury Flop before it was even a thing. My hero. The black and white TV blinked non-stop gray. A Ping-Pong ball clicked time with our fun. I understood my sisters’ heaven.

That musty basement was real perfection. And then it wasn’t any more. The afternoon when it changed the college-age sister of the sweet boy whose basement we loved stood on the steps yelling “Don’t you kids have your own damn home?” She was fierce and strong and scary as hell. We slunk up the stairs, hearts pounding. Tails tucked, heads down. Unwelcome refugees. Hugging the wall against her glare. Shame.

My sisters continued playing next door but I stayed home. And when I was old enough I spent most of my time on the creek in the woods behind our neighborhood. I loved the green quiet where I basked in made-up adventures. I was a daring hero with a pocketknife and rope coiled on my belt. Keeping my distance with imaginary armor.


On this side a bird’s eye view of sunrise
Soaked brown mountains with sharp black
Shadow lines and watercolor pools of
White liquid clouds forming streams
And lakes between angular peaks.

On that side a large plaid shirted stranger,
Head tilted back with wide gaping mouth
Emitting high decibel snores battling for
Dominance over the engine’s modulating hum.

Between the cloudy mountains and the sleeping
Giant we two huddle, shuffling phone photo
Memories in a sleep deprived stupor while
Silently counting down miles in hours as the
Eastward jet stream ushers us toward


Old Photo

A photo of my 31-year-old dad holding
The 3 month old me on his lap in my
Childhood album caught my attention today
He holding me I’ve had this photo for years
And thought I knew it he looking down
On me blanket wrapped but today I
Took a fresh look and saw the rotary
Phone on the wall and the pass-through
Window over the draped kitchen table
His slicked back black hair and handsome
Silhouette my round cheeks his crisp
White shirt with turned up sleeves but mostly
I saw his gaze looking down at our hands
I followed his eyes how had I never noticed
He looking at my five tiny fingers holding
Wrapping one of his fingers tightly


I have to write a poem so I can’t come to bed yet
But I thought I’d get in and cuddle for a bit
That should surely inspire you she says
Possibly is my instant deadpan reply
Spontaneous laughter spills from us
That may be your best poem ever
We’ll see how inspired I am
More laughter then silence
And silent cuddling
And sweet kisses
Good night
My love


When he was 8 he always wore a hat
Never took it off it was a fight and struggle
For his mother who was partial to pink
And flounces of pink everything pink
Or should I say she always wore a hat?
That’s how we’d have described it then
That’s the part (one part) that’s hard when
Talking about the past is it she or he?
Because this person we love was she to us
If not (secretly) to himself for all those years

The hat was a problem at the school where kids
Were not allowed to wear hats to class
Back then I used to take him/her (you can see why
“They” and “ them” is preferred to he or she
But for a family where grammar and language
Is important the struggle to pluralize the singular
Is nearly impossible) along on work appointments
I’d call at 3 when he got home from school and say
I have to drive to Coatesville or Newark
I’d pick him up and he’d ride along in his hat

One clear full moon night when he was 5
He rode with me from my parents’ house
(His grand-parents house) to pick up
A pizza and we watched the moon follow the car
I told him about perspective from my 30-year
Old perspective he understood and I marveled at
His understanding of point of view and difference

In that year of the hat when he was 8 he asked
His father if they knew any gay people
“Susan’s gay” surprisingly this came as a surprise to him
Rendering him silent for a day “what’s the matter?”
“Everyone says I’m like Susan and I don’t want to be gay”

Later, queer was his word not gay or lesbian I didn’t
Understand at the time but now it’s clear like
The hat he wouldn’t remove for a year when we all
Tried to find hats for him that matched our
Perspective for a girl in 1990 when he was always a boy

First Ride

First ride of the season let’s make it flat and short-ish
Why so late it’s early May six weeks past due how did this
Happen? Weather work and then there was pneumonia
Good thing poems don’t have to rhyme like a child’s
Haiku what choices? Begonia ammonia I don’t own ya?

This day though beautiful puffy clouds and the anticipated
Crowd on the pretty flat trail is absent where are the people?
No nervous parents with tiny kids to dodge on training wheel bikes
Lucky us clear sailing as we circle the lot and head north through
Fields cool air tunnel pothole avoidance dark glasses lowered

A large extended family coming our way young big eyed middle son
Heading straight at me thick accent dad calling move left move left
Hey dad you should be saying right…somehow my heart rate doesn’t
Blip I see the whites of his eyes last second few spare feet he shakily
Leans right I hug my edge we pass like ships stay right cute boy

Time check is it 3? Guests in 2 hours plus a grocery stop and shower
We can ride out 3 more miles no that would be 40 minutes back
So 2 more miles no comment her knowing smile I do this with numbers
And time we pedal on 2 more to our big loop turn head back not bad
Feels good we can go to the end next time no worries happy legs first ride

Statue’s View

New York prods thoughts of journeys past
Red Hook view recalls long ago shipboard glimpse
Immigrants’ fears, hopes welcomed, tired embraced
New land heartfelt dreams melting blending fusing

Grandparents poor, America bound Atlantic voyages
The Dream’s greeting, arms embracing Swedish Okkie
Scottish Granddad’s solitary arrival leaving wife
Baby aunt and uncle until brogues ingrain

Eight years hammering boards building foundation
Grandmom’s journey finally to join, US born new baby (dad)
The Statue’s legacy warming encircling nourishing the yearning
To be free long ago, the ideal, a memory of yesterday’s ethos

Oscar’s Advice

Calm kindly eyes beseeched
What can I teach you?
Asked Oscar of the children
Slowly drowning in the stuff
Only money could buy

One replied as others squirmed
Serious brows drawn
We suffer in our crowded heads
Benign trivia overwhelms
Thoroughly devoid of solace

Take a walk, came the considered reply
Soak in the bursting buds
Gulp the scent of lilies of the valley
Wonder at the momentous gold
Sun setting over verdant hills


They say I make up memories

Baby memories I shouldn’t recall

I scoff, and run the memory movie

Giggling sister jumping on big bed

Me at her feet, little 2-year-old body bouncing

I laugh… laugh more…bounce higher, can’t stop laughing

9-year-old legs jump higher, bouncing my giggling body still higher

50s style sharp corner night table looms

Then, my dad, starched white shirt, skinny tie, shaking head

Me, head on Mom’s lap, scratchy sofa on bare legs

Bloody dishtowel wrapped ice pack covers my eye

“Again?” Dad asks