Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Poem by Kelley White

Maybe not
            August 15-18 1969
We had tickets, but I couldn’t get the weekend off
from the Big Banana (where I was the head vegetable,)
it was Tommy Chase, the head fruit, who’d said it was the greatest
lineup ever—but I don’t think he went either, nor the fuzzy haired
boys from the hardware store in Franklin nor their matchstick
thin sister—but you went, tossing your Boy Scout backpack
into the back of someone’s pickup (or VW or bus or camper,
you don’t remember whose, you were, you admit, pretty
fucked up then) from your parent’s house. I was fourteen.
You were twenty-two. We didn’t meet for a quarter
of the twentieth century. I lost the tickets. You lost your
sleeping bag and mess kit and everything else a person needed
more than his pockets to carry (I think that meant a little money
and some matches and some dope) and didn’t really listen
to the music, you remember the Pig Farmers and you’re so proud
you’ve friended Lisa Law on facebook and it turns out Wavy
Gravy is not really so much older than you, or even me,
and we’ve all lived into the twenty-first century—I think—though
even as a kid I never got it how the 18 hundreds are the 19th
or is it the 17th, centuries that is, and we have lost a lot,
lovers, loves, our bodies, our spirits, minds, the ability to
imagine. Still you half-wake and tell me your dreams. For how much
longer? Eight years was a generation. Junior high to Viet Nam.
You didn’t go there. Maybe your number came up. And my
daughter’s been to the American wailing wall, to see her husband’s
father weep at a name he didn’t save. Maybe I saved you.
Maybe you saved me.

Pediatrician Kelley White worked in inner city Philadelphia and now works in rural New Hampshire.  Her poems have appeared in journals including Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA.  Her most recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books).  She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.

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