The kind you’re born with, the kind you choose, the kind that teach Catholic school
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All winter, the snow shining,
I walked to school in a long green
Overcoat, hands deep
In my pockets, with sense enough
To know this phase of my life
Would soon be over; and while school
And teachers were useless,
It was an evil necessary to please
My parents and the truant officer.
I’ve changed my opinion
Not one whit since, and while
The pleading and beatings have stopped,
And my father’s belt is not so easy now
For him to take off, I would rather
Have remained the child
Weighing the risks of skipping
To the drudgery of the classroom,
Than to grow up,
Armed with math and history,
In a world where the only true path
To wisdom is the one
We haven’t yet taken ourselves.
Tonight, a transparent red wood
Shifts itself over the coals
As we sit on a smoke-blackened stone,
The wind a light rasp which drifts
Through the maple limbs
And arcs around our backs.
We’re sad, the two of us,
And I can’t say I know what the trouble is:
Why Orion descends slowly toward dawn
Without its former excitement;
Why there is a time for words, and another
Time when words speak only to themselves . . .
It must come down
To silence sometimes; a moment when we turn
Toward each other under the night, its empire
Of stars, and find we have nowhere else to look
But to ourselves for warmth and light.
The earth turns night
Toward us, all its stars unnailed and pointing.
Bullheads swam in the slow
Black water of the swamp near Longridge,
And we hedged its dank grass and cattails
With our boots on and stripped saplings
Long enough to balance us on the slick logs
We’d layed down as bridges to its dry banks.
Yet, the years went the way of years,
And bulldozers choked up the creek
That fed the swamp, and its mire
Dried to a flat husk of mud
Soon paved with red earth and gravel,
And builders tacked up houses
With pine struts, shingles, and drywall
Thin enough to punch a hand through.
But those houses still stand,
And I think now I was never eleven,
Restless, bored, and growing;
That there was never a swamp at all,
But a landscape of sod lawns and asphalt
Too hard to sink a boot through;
And looking back now at those houses,
I hear my childhood nickname being called
From the marsh grass which once grew there,
And while that voice circles the evening air,
I’m thinking that it’s my own voice,
And I’m thinking now that I never grew.