Today's poem is by John Martin
The Nick Of Time
We lived a block from the East River.
Next to that was the Big Tree. My brother
tried to float away from home on a raft.
I was afraid of the dark and the street by the river
where the bully lived. In our backyard were iris,
phlox and bleeding heart. My mother grew peonies,
my father impatient. So we moved to the edge
of town. Across a field the woods began, marching
in place, silently. And next to us the line of oaks
and a lone pine. More bleeding heart, and rhubarb.
Always then it was mow the snow, shovel the lawn,
watch the TV. In April and May water ran along
the gutters under thin ice. People were getting
drunk. People were killing each other. My father
took us to see wrecked cars, the empty shoes still
on the floorboards. My brother built a room
in the basement and locked the door. Our dinner table
had metal legs and we leaned back in our chairs until
we fell over after the third or fourth glass of milk. My
sisters slept late on Saturdays and my father called them
lazy whelps. People were cutting other people's throats,
and the dairy farmers were up early, milking. Ice cubes
clacked and banged in the metal lemonade cooler
at Two Rivers where our picknicking had its heyday.
My brother never came anymore, and the lake began
throwing up dead fish that stank on the beach. We went
anyway; it was our lake. My mother was a nurse and
worked the night shift for the nuns. I put on weight.
The priesthood was a possibility in light of everything.
Birthdays were a big deal, and my parents went into
debt each Christmas, or so my mother told me much
later. Or, maybe not so much later. A few blocks away
I smoked some cigarettes, of course. Then my sister
tried to be a nun. Oh, boy. That didn't last long, but
I'll Be Home For Christmas made my mother cry.
The fire chief lived across the street, and my friends
and I would steal matches to start fires in the field of
dry grass next to my house, then madly stamp them out
in the nick of time. That's just what happened.
Copyright © 2017 John Martin All rights reserved
from Hold This
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission
Archives Web Weekly Features About Verse Daily FAQs Submit to Verse Daily
Copyright © 2002-2017 Verse Daily All Rights Reserved