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We were

Parkway 2-3304

Lived below the tracks

At the bottom of the hill

Flushed our toilet

Into the river

 

We were white

Bread rising

Behind the wood stove

Coal shoveled

From a pick-up truck bed

Through the shed chute-door

 

We were carrots

Potatoes, beets in sand

Stored in the root cellar

Dug into the bank

Canning jars of fruit and

Pickles lined the shelves

 

We were bamboo rods

And wicker creels

Rubber packs, overshoes

Wool and more wool

 

We were dandelion

Chokecherry and elderberry

Wine kicked up by raisins

Hand paddled ice cream—a thick

Scum on the tongue—comic books

Read on the floor behind the bar

At Chadwick & Boyd’s

Or in the back seat

Of our ’55 Chevy

 

We were empty pop bottles

Traded for penny candy

At Archie’s Texaco

Cleared our throats with ice

Cold nickel-bottles of Coke

Pulled from the water-bath

Reservoir machine

Outside Johnny’s Mobil

 

We were black bears

Spring and fall in the fruit

Trees and garbage cans

The smell of wet dog

Burn barrels and deer tallow

 

We were clothes-pinned

Playing cards sputtering

On bike spokes

Like Evel Knievel jumping

Knapweed, sleeping out

In pup tents up the creek or

On our lawns under the stars

 

We were strip poker and dirty jokes

A six-pack of Olympia beer

Stolen from Lovely’s porch

And stashed in their wood pile

 

We were sledding the big hill

All the way to the river

Bucking bales each summer

Till football began

Crusin’ the drag

And listenin’ to the radio

Elvis, the Beatles, the Beach

Boys and the Stones

The Doors and Dylan

CCR, Motown, What’s Goin’

On? What’s goin’ down

On The Eve of Destruction

 

We were the young awakening 

To men dying unarmed 

In the streets and bleeding 

Overseas deep in the jungle of 

TV, Goddamn!

Steppenwolf set the tone

As we tried to navigate

Not lose ourselves

On that Magic Carpet Ride

Or succumb to The Pusher

Who’d become Our Generation

A Monster Born to be Wild

 

 

We were the children

Of booming promise

Gone shaggy, irreverent

And fucking stoned

How could this happen

Out in the sticks at the drive-in

Easy Rider kept us Groovin’

Marijuana was a weed

And we believed Jefferson

Airplane’s Volunteers and Canned

Heat’s decree that all men

Every boy, girl, woman, and man

Were created equal

Black Panthers NOW

Took AIM at Vietnam Veterans

Against the War

It was insane and

 

We were drafted into it

By funerals and flag draped coffins

Our innocence blown

Like brain matter and blood

On the lap of a pink dress

While German Shepherds and fire

Hoses tore at black men

And women billy-clubbed

On their knees, Altamont gave us

Sympathy for the Devil

 

We were lost

For a decade of post

Traumatic stress

Booze and pills

Window pane and crystal

Powders we called thrills

Kicks were getting harder

To find the older we got

Out in the woods we ran

On mountain tops, we flew

Outside up high

Fishing lakes, walking streams

Searching for something, some reason

To breath, to keep

Stumbling along

 

What saved me

Was fatherhood, my kids

Helped me remember 

What it was like

To see the world up close

For the first time

Sitting with bees or deer

Until they didn’t care we were there

Watching the shadows change

From sunset to dark, listening

To the old dog snore under our feet

Then beat homemade fudge, lick

The spoon, play board games

On the kitchen floor, back then

When we were kids

 

We were convinced

Our parents knew everything

Unaware of their panic

Never privy to their terror

My sons reminded me

To buck-up and be the dad

They needed me to be

It’s what we do when we don’t know

What else to do—pretend

 

We know what’s coming 

Up and what’s going down

That road we’ve never been on

Take the point and walk

Into the dark, it’s the only thing

We can do besides celebrate

Our nakedness rolling in

The grass of a sunny afternoon

And laughing at the foolery

Of our oh-so-certain selves, take stock

In each other, abide our needs

To love and dance

And play, what we’d almost forgotten

Dial up that old area code

For living today

 

—for Birthday Burt and his Montana Gal

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