Back when their days were lean-and-hungriest
and "boughten" entertainment few and far between,
Sunday Afternoon was devoted to an endless walk
(so it seemed to the children's soonweary feet)
through Chicago streets to a countrytype area
alongside railroad tracks, where they could sit
on a grassy knoll and watch the trains go by:
daughter and son running ahead to be there
and done with it; parents following closely,
keeping an Eye out, shaded against the glare.

And all the way there, and all the way back,
the children (having promised not to whine
or ask how much farther? more than twice each)
would clamor for Old Country stories: Donkey-Riding,
the Little Frog Who Fell Into a Deep Well,
and the Three Bad Boys Who Got In and Out
of Scrapes at the Circus, or at Boarding School,
or (when last we met them) at the North Pole.

One story for the daughter, on the way out;
a second for the son, on the way back home;
the last saved for both when bedtime came
to the dank basement, whose shadeless windows
looked levelly out on a Chicago sidewalk
and the corner streetlamp which provided
not only free illumination (all through the night)
but handy storytelling-illustration as well:

For the father would cut from pasteboard sheets
a complete galantyshow company: figurine'd
folk, birds and animals, trees and houses;
and as he told more about the Three Bad Boys
and their misadventures (tonight filling pockets
with stones and going out to conquer windows—
biggest Boy claiming eleven, middle Boy five,
smallest-of-all merely one--but each Boy caught
redhanded by the righteous Plainclothesman,
fined and soundly lectured by the Judge)

—the shadows of the father's silhouettes,
his cardboard players, set and properties,
got streetlamp-cast upon the bedroom wall.



Originally published in irresistible impulse
(Seattle, WA: Camille Blanchette)
Vol. 11, No. 2, Autumn 1992

Copyright © 1992, 2004  by P. S. Ehrlich


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