If I wake at 3, ephemerality
Is leitmotif. Small wonder in that, of course:
Tempus fugit. The years go hurtling by.
Like any other bromides, these became
What they are for their truth. It’s only a vapor,
Say, that version of me who poked fun at a game
Called “Barnyard Bingo” at a Tupperware demonstration.
Tupperware, of all things! A woman named Claire
Was the hostess, single mom scratching for cash in the ‘60s,
And the single un-mind-altered person there.
To us self-styled rebels, she seemed a fossil. Of course.
We were bent on changing what we deemed a fucked-up old nation
Into what it should be. Above the Tupperware prattle,
Otis Redding announced a matchless sadness
From a record player with up-to-date stereo.
We believed the floor where we boogied was shaking with promise.
I can’t remember the rules of Barnyard Bingo,
But I do recall how my old friend Peter quick-stepped
My way, and squawking like a territorial chicken,
Made as if to peck me. I managed a hip-check
That knocked him onto a cushion next to Muffin,
Handsome black neighbor supplied with an unlikely nickname
Because he worked as a baker. He found our shenanigan
A riot. Of course. He hurled himself up from the divan,
High-fived me, grinned, and woozily plopped back down.
Where’s that deft, hip-checking punk? What happened
To the seven-year-old who, seeing a hornet land
On his T-shirt sleeve, used an index finger to flick
The nasty bug across a picnic table
Onto the wrist of his favorite playmate Eddie?
Eddie went wide-eyed, less with pain than surprise
And blurted Jesus Christ. His Bible-pious
Father then cuffed the kid’s neck. Of course. Those boys–
Where are they now, and Peter, Muffin, Claire?
And why are such random things, so meaningless, still
A part of me? Of course these are just some of thousands.
Why not more recent events, like the death of Bill,
Another old pal, mere days ago? But these doldrums
Will die themselves, of course. It can’t be 3
In the morning forever. Of course it can’t, I repeat.
Sydney Lea was Poet Laureate of Vermont from 2011-2015. His most recent collection of poems, No Doubt The Nameless (2016), is available from Four Way Books, and in 2013 his collaborative book with Fleda Brown, Growing Old in Poetry: Two Poets, Two Lives, was published. In the same year, Skyhorse Publishing presented A North Country Life: Tales of Woodsmen, Waters and Wildlife, personal essays. Other recent publications include Six Sundays Toward a Seventh: Selected Spiritual Poems (Wipf and Stock, 2013) and A Hundred Himalayas (U of Michigan, 2012), a sampling from his critical work over four decades. His fourth collection of lyrical essays, What’s the Story? Short Takes on a Life Grown Long, was published last year by Vermont’s Green Writers Press.