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I see in her mottled skin
of dishwater pain,
the desperately overturned
stripped bare of our lunch money.
Here in the crispest of mornings
lies purpose-in oatmeal, in Praise the Lord,
in sitting still while the tea boils;
here in the emptiness of my third grade
she is free to be trapped in polyester,
free to consider all the worlds
her hands have had
to make from scratch.
(He is a forgetful bastard this morning,
all caught up in his steering gears
without a drop of change.)
So this is what warmth can be,
as we huddle by the gas oven for heat
and stare holes through the blue flames.
She is not my mother this morning.
She is a scalloped-skinned mutt,
carefully trampling down the circles
where she may find tea-stained
I would tell you more,
to rescue small children
from all matters human.
The first time he said anything, I was slightly amused
and wrote it all down on a gum wrapper.
(Wrapper's gone now.)
The second time he spoke I had a tape recorder all ready
and captured it all on second-hand tape.
(Do not leave tapes exposed to sunlight.)
The next time he spoke I brought a court reporter,
who promptly fainted when the enormity struck her.
(Hire only seasoned professionals.)
He spoke again the next day to the Ladies' Auxiliary,
who conveniently left his name off the program
to make room for dessert.
(Rum raisin cake, must get recipe.)
After this he was seen speaking to some Boy Scouts,
a few derelicts
various doctors, an occasional jogger, several veterans,
numerous ministers and rabbis,
bored journalists, and itinerant salesmen.
Rumor has it that he spoke to all of us once-
but he was in so much pain that day.
(I thought he was calling for Elijah.)
It was a Savior-to-person call.
Believers' Guide to Drifting
On the one hand, we have this couple-
so young, so connected, so grounded.
The balloon they released together
into the Memphis air held two cards in tow
as it found its way between their hands
and the balloon maker's place.
Now balloons don't think for themselves
(as Einstein and others have shown)
but I'd like to show some respect
for this particular balloon with
some sort of hidden agenda.
(I'd even like to think it was smiling.)
For two hundred miles later,
on the other hand,
there's this older couple
(plain country folk, as it were)
so empty, so needful,
One day this here couple
found a red balloon on the back forty,
two cards still dangling.
One card had the address of a church in Memphis
where a young couple launched a red balloon
and then had a picnic.
The other card told this drifting farmer
that somebody he had abandoned
in his own back forty
still loved his stubborn hide
and wanted to talk over the fence some more.
This is where the story would have ended for us,
if the farmer and his suddenly beautiful wife
hadn't decided to hang up a little red balloon
on the door of their simple farmhouse
and ride into town on Sunday.
(Folks who saw them that day thought
they looked mighty grounded.)
I picked up my first stray when I was five, and it promptly died.
He was a fine catch, as strays go-
strong in spirit, eminently playful, relatively grateful;
but he soon discovered the highway the hard way,
and I discovered traffic does not slow down for grieving boys.
As my growing was given out to me,
my strays took on other shapes:
impractical birds with one good wing,
indecipherable bluegill and bass,
indecisive chickens and the occasional Easter bunny-
to each I gave my pre-adolescent heart and cartoon soul
until they had reached their respective Heavens.
And now I find my strays are called people.
These are the ones who don't respond to makeshift bandages,
or necessarily appreciate the off-key comfort songs
of cradling crusader rabbits with haloes to match.
Let them go, let them go, you must let them go.
They are strays, and will carry you off to their own funerals-
They are strays, and will find other chocolate-covered hands
to feed them-
Let them go, let them go, you must let them go-
They are strays, and filled with the rage of previous owners-
They are strays, and drunk with the knowledge of other highways.
What I have done, I have done for Love,
and what I failed to do (oh, what I failed to do)
why, I did that for Love as well.
Love sure takes a beating from crusader hypocrites like me.
Copywrite Michael Pollick 2006
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