Thursday, June 15, 2017

Red Ball Jets, by Christine McNamara

“Do you like them?” the nice man asked me as he finished tying the second shoe. “The fit is perfect,” he said, poking the front of my sneaker trying to find my toe. “Why don’t you walk around in them? Give ‘em a whirl!”

“They’re perfect. Beautiful. Just right.” I marveled, unable to take my eyes off of them. “I love them already.” Looking down at my feet, I was almost speechless — my very first pair of Red Ball Jets.

The salesman continued to encourage me. “Go on. Walk around the store and try them out. You can even run — it’s okay to run around in here.”

I stood slowly and began taking very deliberate, cautious steps. It was hard to walk and look at my feet at the same time, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. The toe was perfectly white and the sneaker was bright bright red. On the back of the sneaker was the special blue dot with the words Red. Ball. Jets. I could hear the slogan in my head: “Run faster. Jump Higher. In your Red Ball Jets!”

I stared at them wondering — “Will I have a hard time controlling them? Will it be scary to run so fast and jump so high? I’ll have to really practice.”

I thought to myself —“Maybe start with jumping over small things, like the dog and my bike. And then work up gradually to bigger things — the hedge along the driveway, my sister, and then Mrs. McCarthy’s house.”

I moved around the store slowly, carefully. I wasn’t at all convinced that this nice man understood the power he had just tied onto my feet. After one lap around the store, and feeling slightly more confident, I began to move a little bit faster. Slowly I worked up to a jog. “Still good.” I thought. “I can control these.”

“Do they feel okay honey?” my mother asked as I jogged past her.  "They don’t hurt your feet do they?”

I came out of my concentration just long enough to tell her that they felt great and then I returned to my initiation.

“Ready for Phase 2,” I said out loud to no one, and with that I broke into a run. My feet felt light. My legs felt powerful. I was moving faster than I ever could have imagined.

In mere seconds I was flying out of the children’s section and whipping through women’s shoes. My speed was incredible. “I’m just getting warmed up!” I thought to myself as I took the first tight turn to the right. Out of women’s and into men’s shoes, then boots, socks, and . . . well, I don’t remember the rest of the store. I was moving so fast it was all just a blur.

Two more right turns and I stopped abruptly next to my mother. “That’s a lot of running for a 4-year-old!” she said to me as I leaned on my knees, huffing and puffing. “Should we get them?” She paused, letting me catch my breath. “It seems like you can handle them,” she commented without a hint of sarcasm in her voice.

“I can handle them,” I replied quickly between breaths. I didn’t want her to realize that I hadn’t even tried jumping yet!

"What would happen when I left the ground in these babies?!!" I wondered to myself.

Mom nodded when I asked if I could wear them home, and we went up to the cash register to pay for them.

“Are you sure you’re okay with them?” Mom asked as we walked hand in hand to the car. “I’m sure,” I said. “But just to be safe, I better sit in the back seat.”

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Hello Up There, by Nina Miller

Not for a millisecond do I deceive myself
that you are listening, yet I speak to you
as if you were just out of the shower, shaving,
or stirring milk into your morning coffee
while you frown over foreign affairs
as reported by Frank Rich.

Hello up there. I say it
In the morning, in the midst of day,
But especially at night,
Patting the empty place where
I used to brush my fingers on your belly
To be certain that it was moving up and down, up and down.
I tell you all the latest:
my aches and pains, who’s getting a divorce, who’s dying,
but most of all, the children,
whose lives link ours with the future.

Hello up there, I say again.
Someday I will join you in oblivion,
and we will share the ease of nothingness
as once we shared a bite of succulent lobster
or the zany laughter of early Woody Allen,
or handed back and forth our favorite sections of the Sunday Times.


NOTE: The title comes from a poem by Marge Piercy

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Ferris Wheel, by Kimberly A. Zajac

We are night time travelers you and I 

Star struck from an early age

Hoping the Ferris Wheel would get stuck at the top

So we could sway above the kaleidoscopic carnival below

Above the games that couldn’t be won

But were played anyway

Reaching to touch the moon with cotton candied fingers

A pinky promise to stay stuck together forever

And we did

Few words between us

None needed in the awe of how we fit 

So perfectly in the milky way

Don’t let go we giggled

Our laughter mingling with the twinkling stars

Let’s stay here forever we sighed in time

And we do

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I Remember, by Caroline Gates-Lupton

I remember the dogwood tree in the corner of the side yard. I remember the color of the flowers - white, maybe pink. I remember how this tree was my favorite, my special space, my changing room. I remember I didn't understand that anyone driving down the street could see me. I remember hanging my clothes on the branches and believing I had utter privacy. I remember when Mom told me I couldn't do that anymore.

I remember the rocks at Taughannock Falls State Park, the wet, sometimes slimy ones that we weren't supposed to walk across. I remember going there purposely to walk on them, all five of us. I remember how we weren't the only ones - there were young kids, adults, teenagers, people in bikinis, shirtless guys, sandaled and bare feet. I remember wading into the deeper pockets of water and floating on my back. I remember the heat that the dry rocks held, the heat that the shallow pools kept. I remember the paths we took to get down there - both were steep and well-worn by travelers. I remember standing on the rocks and looking up to see a park ranger walking down the trail. I remember him glancing down at all of us. I remember how he kept on walking.

I remember building witches' towers at the edge of the ocean with my dad. I remember his fingers dripping with sandy mud, the tower rising up where the drops landed. I remember copying him, our towers gaining height and strength beside each other. I remember how the sunset colored the sky and darkened the ocean. I remember, when it was time to leave, asking him if the towers would be there when we came back, still standing so close to the ocean. I remember him saying he didn't know.
I remember the clock in our kitchen, the one that called out the hour in birdsong. I remember being scared of it. I remember loving it. I remember falling and banging my elbow in the threshold between the hardwood dining room and the linoleum kitchen. I remember Mom rushing to me and asking if I was all right. I remember saying I was, in the moment before my elbow began throbbing. I remember that bird clock looking down at me from across the kitchen while tears streaked across my face. I remember when the clock broke.
I remember the lakeweed in the lake by my grandparents' cottage, and the feeling of it brushing past my feet. I remember floating out past the dock on the tube to get away from it. I remember how strong the pull of the current was, reeling me back to shore. I remember fighting it with my cousins and siblings, all of us laughing, all of us trying not to get sucked back in. I remember our grandmother, watching us from under the brim of her pink visor. I remember here calling to us not to go out too far - there's boat traffic, she said. I remember our reassurances of "We won't!" I remember how the tide helped us keep that promise.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Things a House Should Have, by Susan Lesser

A house should have —
    A door that opens wide and welcoming into the front hall where there is a bouquet of sunshining roses resting on the little rosewood table that belonged to your Great-Aunt Vera who brought it home from India in 1906, but no on knows how she managed to do that.
    Another door that opens into the kitchen where loaves of bread are baking in the oven and, on the countertop, a bowl of apples nestles in beside the chunky white candle you light each night so the flame can launch evening thoughts and prayers for thanks and hope.

A house should have —
    Windows, many windows.
    Old windows with watery panes that change the asphalt road out front into an impressionist rendering, turning straight lines into undulating curves, and the branches of the towering Norway spruce into a hidden forest filled with elves and fairies.
    New windows that are double-paned, or triple-paned (I really can’t tell you) that close tight against the frosted breath of winter while you stay snug by the wood-burning stove.

A house should have —
    A roof that shields you from both the searing afternoon rays of the summer sun and the nighttime rain that from time to time performs its tap dance along the eaves.

A house should have —
    Open spaces where family and friends collect for birthday parties with a chocolate cake decorated with M&Ms and the right number of candles; spaces for cooking and Christmas trees, for playing games with thumb-worn cards, and for just plain old sitting around and talk, talk, talking,
    Closed spaces where you can sleep and dream and plan and write and read and maybe cry, or just gaze out the window until sunset comes to say good-bye to the day.

A house should have —
    A garden with spring bulbs that surprise you with their enthusiastic blooms because over the winter, you forgot just where you buried those lacquered brown knots, but they waited all the way through the short days of winter to pop up right now and say, “Here I am!”
    A garden full of peonies and pansies, lilacs and lilies, and especially parsley and sugar snap peas. They will all be happy to have you sit on the wood-strapped bench with your cup of lukewarm coffee and admire them before you pick the yellow squash for dinner and the blue indigo for the centerpiece.

A house should have —
    At least one someone to live in it, maybe more than one, maybe not. In any case a house is meant to hold lives and lifetimes and, without a someone, it is like a book with only a cover, an eggshell without an egg. Because, after all, a house should be a home.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Two Lists and Six Haiku, by Caroline Gates-Lupton

I Miss . . . .

I miss
When ten o'clock was late at night
Star gazing in the hammock
Having no responsibilities
"Ice skating" in rain boots
The cats: Allie, D-Max, Priscilla, and Max
Sliding down the space between the wall and my bunk bed
My dad's wild, dream-filled stories
Playing hide-and-seek
Her blonde hair and the way she called me sissy
Being the tallest
When the biggest decision I had to make was whether or not to have mac and cheese for lunch
Making up games that lasted for hours

I Don't Miss . . . .

I don't miss
Being too little
Being called "bossy"
Feeling outcast from my siblings' games
Not being allowed to stay home alone
Not knowing how to ride a bike (and earning scraped shins and bruises in the process of learning)
Not having 24/7 access to a kitchen
Being pooped on by a bird
Having almost no independence (and wanting none)
Hanging out with a girl whom I liked, then disliked, then despised
Strangers walking through my yard
Being terrified of the unexplained noises I heard at night
The way the bathroom door stuck
My aunt
Ladybug infestations
Never having enough socks

= = =

brother and sister
mistaken for twins
i'm two years older

mother and daughter
reddish hair
different eyes

father and daughter
i looked like him
when i was born

sister and sister
best friends
we talk (she talks) nonstop

cat and girl
she likes to touch
her head to mine

me then, me now
two steps away
i'll reach back for you

Friday, April 28, 2017

List of Lists, by Rob Sullivan

top 100 rock songs
sweetest desserts
languages spoken
dances done
favorite times on clock
best temperatures by season
baseball cards I've known and loved
coolest cars of our youths
words for snow
concerts that transcended
movie scenes to cry for
countries on the bucket list
garden tools
friends down through the ages
fiends, boogeymen, and monsters
acts of random kindness
messages that come from our heart of hearts
favorite dogs of friends
moments of ecstasy
times of sorrow
foods foodies favor