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Poor Man’s Heaven

A child of the city autumns, winters and springs
this young boy spent summers in heaven
in a bungalow bare-boned but strong
built by my Father’s own strong raw-boned hands
near the shores of the Sound, on top of a hill
where dogwoods and black cherry trees abound
outhouse, no plumbing or phone, walking two miles for mail
yet this boy and his brother had no cares

Fishing in Miller’s Pond for crappies
just spit-wadded bread on the hook
where the old farmer would chase us away with a shotgun
he wasn’t really going to shoot
Scottie’s – the grocery store half mile away
in a big old wooden shack
getting the Sunday funnies
and picking only one from the candy rack

My Father, in Brooklyn, to work through the week
how he must have loved to leave on those Friday nights
we waited and watched, but always heard first
his arrival in the quiet retreat of this land
in pockets he always brought some treats
for the loves of his life
we ran out to greet him for big bear-hugs
then wait for those treats, like bony-ribbed dogs

We would hunt for huckleberries in the woods
then come back and eat them
or currants or gooseberry preserves
from the bushes in our yard
found big box-turtles to keep in a chicken-wire pen
but by morning they had always escaped
tried for butterflies and grasshoppers
but they would rarely be caught
fished the salty Sound with my Father
my first a blackfish so small
my Father’s calloused hands could not feel the tug
but this young boy’s quiet hands could

My Mother, so gentle the swallows would feed at the window
cared alone for us during the week
we washed sitting in a big old tin bucket
with water from the hand-pump
Unca Ivar, Tante Margaret and children would visit for a week
she told us it snows in Brooklyn in August every year
When the old brown Chevy was full, he would hop on the running board
one free hand waving in rapture

Screened-in porch Parcheesi on those bucolic nights
while watching the fire-flies flicker their lights
Chinese checkers, too – no one could beat my Mom
though sometimes she let one of us almost win

The last days of August were mingled with joy and sorrow
to go back to the everyday world, but
as boys we didn’t know we were poor – we were ruled by
the forces of childhood, when we felt free and protected

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