17 August 2015

Look Out the Window

Billy Collins wrote: "...the poets are at their windows." And so I looked out the window and wrote what I saw.

The couple crossing the street is hot. Everyone is hot, to tell the truth, but they look especially hot. He is balding and just starting to cross that line into overweight. These facts are emphasized by two things: The top of his head is glaring red (he ignores that he is balding, an admission of becoming his father, by never wearing a hat or putting on sunscreen), and his blue buttondown strains at the seams. Even more unseemly, there are sweat spots under his arms, down his back, where his shirt is tucked into his black pants.

But as he turns to catch his wife's hand, they smile and the world cools around them. They are here together, forgetting for just the few moments it takes to cross the street that niggling sense that life hasn't turned out how they planned.

12 August 2015

Late Fall

Right Lane Closed
Until Late Fall

This is the large sign that is currently flashing away at the train crossing closest to my house. It brings up many questions for me, including: If just the right lane is closed, why is the entire crossing blocked off? Wouldn't it be so much simpler to say on the sign: "Road Closed Until Late Fall"?

I tried, I have to admit, walking over that crossing yesterday morning. In my defense, it is where I cross to get to the train station on my way to work every morning, and I am nothing if not a creature of habit. At 6:04 every morning for the last two years, I have been crossing the tracks right there, and yesterday my body turned before the rest of me—or at least the important thinking part of me—took in the fact that the road around the tracks was ripped up.

While I realize that I could simply step over each of the rails, I am forever haunted by that scene in Fried Green Tomatoes when Chris O'Donnell gets his foot caught by the railroad ties and thank the good Lord you don't actually see him get hit by the train. I know I don't wear lace-up boots like he does, but still: I am a large proponent of railroad safety.

So it looks like from now until late fall I will be walking down the Prairie Path to cross at Main, and it's actually that idea of "late fall" that stopped me short when I saw the flashing sign.

Late fall.

Every year in August, I stop being able to imagine other seasons.

The grass this year is turning brown and prickly; aside from a few bursts of storms, it hasn't rained in weeks.

The sun blisters and burns daily, sending us all inside to hide in the air conditioning.

Even the idea of sitting on the porch with a sweating glass of lemonade sound impossible: There is too much sweat involved in that image.

The daylilies are nothing but opportunities to dead-head, and I snap off the shriveled petals every chance I get. There is a certain satisfaction to that akin to sweeping off your porch or vacuuming under the bed; you are, in all cases, doing a clean sweep.

Late fall.

I try to bring up images of rainy Saturdays, and I try to remember biting winds promising a season of eating soup and baking bread. I think of sweaters and hoodies and scarves.

But in August all I can see is the summer days stretching before me, as if they are all I've ever known and ever will know. It's summer, and won't it always be summer?


One day it will be late fall again, and I will be able to cross the tracks where I always do.


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