I was eight years old and wanted to win
the scrap metal drive.
I asked father to dispatch the lumberyard truck.
After Shorty drove back with the mattress springs and dumped them
on the playground, my excitement began to build.
The trucks came back again trembling into the schoolyard
with cast-off pumps and windmill blades from old farms.
My brothers donated
glistening tinfoil bars.
Wait! Is that my grandfather's cast-iron bed?
Would he sleep on the floor? I don’t remember.
After Spam sandwiches and grape pop, the superintendent called us
to the auditorium. He announced my name and pinned the sterling
victory pin, Dot-Dot- Dot- Dash in Morse Code, to my flannel shirt.
He saluted me and I saluted back.
I learned a lot. My family would do anything
to help me, especially grandfather who gave up his bed.
The senior boys in the auditorium returned to graduate in uniform.
One had a purple heart.
When couples parked to spoon on the banks of the Missouri
"Buy your Victory Garden seeds here!"
I hawked them from door to door.
"Radishes and lettuce, a nickel a packet."
I made enough to buy a hand warmer for my cousin,
Planted my patch at the farm.
Father told how cold it got in the trenches.
In World War II my cousin flew a B34,
still got cold in the air.
When he flew over the barn, he dipped his wings.
they sighted German U-boats tunneling beneath the River.
Onawa, Iowa, Halloween, 1943
Mother walked us to school that day. We lugged the Winesaps for apple bobbing.
Not enough syrup to make popcorn balls like last year. Cold out.
In our jacket pockets we carried war-bond books.
I carried my grass skirt, too, for show and tell. When I wrote my soldier, I confessed my longing
for a grass skirt like the ones, they showed in the war movies. Army censors marked out his return address, but I knew where he was stationed because he also sent me a shell bracelet that spelled out Figi. Mother said my grass skirt smelled like seaweed, but I loved it.
As we passed Mrs. Wilson’s house we remembered when a soldier and Father Murphy stood on the porch. Mrs. Wilson shrieked, “Oh no, not my boy.” My sister and I ran to her. Neighbors gathered to help her back into the house.
When we got to school, we read on the blackboard, "Help finance a Jeep." "Jeep" was easy.
We had to sound out "finance." That day our war-bond money went for the Jeep in honor of our school. In class I read my poem about my grandfather's long johns on the clothesline leaping like kangaroos. Margaret Ann asked if she could hear it again.
I didn’t know how to write poems about the war, only kangaroos, Figi Islanders, and Athena riding Pegasus.
Tricks or treat at night. Pumpkin candle for a light. I wore my grass skirt over pajama bottoms. Sad at Mrs. Wilson's house. Her three blue stars in the window; now the gold one. She smiled and handed out Hershey bars. Wherever did she get them? On the way home, snow surprised us. We walked over ice, covered in white. We followed in someone’s footprints, maybe the ghost of a soldier looking for home.
Summer through the Southwest
My favorite site:
not the Grand Canyon,
but the trough at the Socorro
water to the brim.
Equus ferus caballus
One More Day
Waiting me out
Death watches me grow plump enough for a tasty morsel,
children captured by the witch.
I stick my fingers out through the bars for Death to calculate
how they have rounded.
A cruel game He plays with me, but hey!
It’s one more day. I’m still alive.
What a clanging celebration in my heart
when the first rays pierce the sky and holler, “Rise.”
Or let me doze.
Remembering the photographs of the liberated Americans
at Java: their ribs and collar bones stick out.
They grin at the indescribable pain
of being alive and free.