One Small Step – a poem

Daddy said yes to the pool with that girl
so I finished the sign Watermelons
for Sale with the magic-markered red slice
made a half-moon with buglike LEM on top

then oh my in that frilly bikini
her slim legs churning the bubblegum sheen
of the pool at that ramshackle motel
on I guess my first sorta halfway date.

Back at the store hair damp and heart thumping
we locked the door for an hour not to watch
but to buy eggs sold cheap down a dirt road
in the woods. Was the truck’s radio on?
Pretty sure I knew it was coming up,

but Daddy didn’t seem to care a whit.
It would happen or not was just his way.
Something else the war schooled him over
that he couldn’t unlearn is what I think.

The eggs rattled between us on the seat
while I sniffed the chlorine on my fingers
and in my hair and the dust plumed behind
I’d like to imagine all the way up

to where those clunky boots we later learned
stepped down from a ladder to a sea where
even now on full moon nights it all seems
jumbled up like something I must have dreamed

tanned legs that splatter a pool’s blue water
fat cleats imprinting a virgin beach
in the eggshell gleam of the moon’s reflection
half forgotten, except everything’s changed.

She Said, He Not So Much – a poem

My father hardly spoke.
My mother never quit.
I’ve grown up with this yoke
all because of it.

You want to say it all
like your mama did
but then you get the call
to keep it all hid.

The trick is in the way
you sit the nest
of what you have to say
to say it best,

or if not best than better
than whatever comes to mind,
you try to say what matters
and leave the rest behind.

So thank you Mom and Dad
for the Spratt-like thing you did
in the way you got it said
all the days that you were wed.

Put one and one together
and this is what you get;
it’s just I don’t know whether
or what to make of it.

How to Carry Someone Who is Unconscious – a poem

Why would you want to do that?
Is he lying in the street or halfway in a door?
Do you hear gunshots?  Do you see blood?
Can you detect a breath
tickle the fine hairs of your ear?
Did you see him fall?  Are the two of you alone?
Don’t take forever with it – think!
It’s okay to drag him, if you can.

But here’s how:
Roll her over on her back
then reach in at her head and push her up
to sitting, be careful of her neck.
Don’t pull her arms, don’t tug, remember your back.

Maybe you end up on your knees
so your whole front is like a seat back
for this insensate person.  I mean,
you have to understand, this is an intimate maneuver.
But you’re only just beginning, so.

Slide your arms under his and clasp your wrists at his chest.
Make your arms a belt around him, like a big old bear hug.
Then if you can do this, here’s a place where you need to be sure,
get up on one knee, then you and this person
you are hugging tighter than you can believe
use your legs not your back your bodies really sandwiched
you both yes that’s right come to a stand.

This is no joke.
Because now you’re committed. 
Now you could both go down.
It’s like a dance, a kind of shuffle
where you squeeze her even tighter
while you shift your position
sidle around to her side somehow
you really have to practice

and her sleeping arm you need to duck under
so it’s hanging out there zombie-like across your shoulder
but what you’re going for is to block her knees with yours
shove them up straight and locked
so for the first time you see how tall she is
in this high and doddering place
where you’ve arranged yourselves.

But that’s not even all.  Are you ready?  Get ready.
Because now comes the switch.  No, seriously,
this is how you do it.
It’s the weak link in the procedure.
You have to quit the bear hug
while you ease around to his front
and grab his floppy wrists
(it helps to lean forward and crouch
so he sort of drapes across your back)
and then here we go, alright, this is it.

Get in right under her armpits
pull her arms over your shoulders like a shawl,
bend those knees, stick out your butt
(her head may bump on yours)
and take a tentative step. 

You’ve got him.
You can shuffle off to what you hope is safety,
to help, to some kind of better place. 
Maybe his legs are long and drag behind,
toes drawing lines from there to here
if you’re in sand.  People may see you
and not know what to think.

But let me say this.  There is a rule
that we all follow and will hold you to.
Oh yes we will.  If she is unconscious and you touch her.
If you dare to move her sleeping form.
Until you get her to safety or help,
do this whole thing we just rehearsed
entirely in reverse,
until that moment when you step back,
unkink your knees and spine,
wipe at your shirt and bend gasping at her side

until then — because you touched her —
you own what happens.  You are the responsible
party.  The Good Samaritan. 
In ways you must decide to bear
that is your burden too.

So this.  It helps to be ready, to have a clue.
It’s not for everybody.  I get that.
There are these risks involved
if you dare to cross that line,
if you stop and bend to touch.

You would hope if it was you. 
But I’m not here to judge.  Which is
why we practice.  So here.
A little rude but I call it
try before you buy.