Richard Luftig

From Memory

Here in California

I’m reduced to thumbing 

through old notebooks 

for poem ideas or from cut-out 

newspaper stories about small-town 

doctors retiring after fifty years 

and tractor parades on the Fourth of July.

 

I try but have probably forgotten

how to tell folks about barns 

built in the old German style,

of graveled county roads

with weed-flowers growing wild

in the culverts designed 

to help drain the fields.

 

I’m struggling to recall

all of those things

about Amana and Kadoka, 

Fisher and Broken Bow,

that made them special,

now reduced to dots on maps 

of states, where railroads 

once ran out of towns, 

towns ran out of enough kids

to man the high-school

football team on Friday nights.

These places where crops

and factories failed,

where work and dreams

moved to warmer climes.

Even before all that, I’m trying

to remember growing up, 

riding the subway 

to the last stop in Brooklyn—

Far Rockaway-- to explore 

the boardwalk and ride 

roller coasters at Coney Island

or strolling around what passes 

for a lake in Central Park,

watching lovers in rowboats

share a kiss. And today,

 

I rummage through our garage

and look through a buried book 

of snapshots, mostly of the kids,

some of us, taken back when 

cameras held film and folks 

took the spent rolls to Woolworths 

to be developed. We’d pick them up 

the next week, take them out 

of the envelope right there 

in the store, shuffle through 

the pile one-by-one. And this one, 

 

of us walking hand-in hand 

along a creek somewhere in Pennsylvania,

or so it says from the writing on the back,

and I now remembering how back then

we believed the world would always

be ours for the planning,

never how, in this lifetime,

we would have to make it

all up as we went along.

tiffany jolowicz Monday on Michigan Island, Yesterday, the Day Before, Two Thousand Years