The kind you’re born with, the kind you choose, the kind that teach Catholic school
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Longing for disasters,
for Southern California to slide into the sea,
for fires the size of North Dakota,
dust clouds, Krakatoas,
earthquakes at 8.4,
all to convince me I am still alive,
I remember the spring flood
the year I was fifteen.
The brown beast moves
down the valley of the Little Neshaminy
wearing in its hair uprooted trees,
lumber, pasture gates, an occasional chicken house
for a hat.
On the old stone bridge we gather,
all the stunned neighbors,
to watch it flow with a force,
an inevitability we can not imagine
in our lives.
The Wiley boys arrive, Al and Roy,
lean and maybe dangerous.
They strip to their shorts,
leap to the balustrade, stand poised.
They wouldn’t dare, we think.
Then they dive, together, into the roiling water,
disappear, disappear, forever,
and come up laughing, clamber out,
lope back to the bridge, and do it again.
My father, the fireman, says, “Those fools are crazy.”
But I see something in his eyes,
And I know, at that moment,
that I can not be a man
if that is what it takes.
I will wander into an office soon, and sit,
dreaming my life away,
remembering the Wiley boys as they dive
and disappear, over and over,
into the flood.
Larry K. Richman