Musty Old Books
When the door to my mother opened
for the ninth time
I was born
into the land of strawberries
and Bantam roosters, into a storm
of purple lilacs and sweet cherry trees
with red arms reaching
like my brother’s and sister’s
come to carry me into the fields of alfalfa
and sweet clover where the rhubarb fanned
its green umbrella.
There I played
honing my sticks and doodling in the dirt
until I grew up tall as the waist high corn
that supplanted my feet
with hoe and cycle
to blister my palms. Childhood
receded as the callouses grew.
Then the butcher came
with his knives and saws
and painted the barn with a coat of blood.
Not even the horses were spared
the banker’s grin
when the auctioneer’s rap and gavel fell
on tractors, hams, briskets and plows.
I retreated then
to the forest and creek
where I waded and fished for chubs and trout
among deadfall stumps
as the partridge thumped
somewhere deep in the cedar swamp.
on a hot dog day
to a drafty cottage with shelves full of old
There I explored with E. A. Poe,
Pablo Neruda, Ayn Rand
and L. Ron Hubbard with their lanterns aglow
in the motes of dust. I found
loneliness and doubts in unlearning
and vast disagreements
with parents, professors, and psychologists, but
from the angst came certainty
that I was free to
instead of free from. Free
to do anything that was just and good, but not so free
from the consequences of ignorance and stupidity.
Excerpted from CITY SLICKER’S GUIDE TO THE NORTH COUNTRY
Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®