Bio Note: I have written poetry through a succession of jobs—psychiatric technician, psychiatric caseworker, nursing home social worker, university editor, the latter spanning more than 30 years—and a growing family numbering five children, five grandchildren, and my wife of 50 years. I credit poetry with slowing life’s hectic pace. I live in Middleton, Wisconsin. My published work can be found at conservancies.wordpress.com
Just 10 and alone, often I’d walk to our farm pond, seining the wind as I went. Dragonflies and blackbirds saw me as theirs. Bullfrogs kept apart, grumbling in the moss, while assorted fish milled round like unfledged thoughts beneath the pier I swayed on. Through the water I swiped my net. Away fled the fish, though often I snared some twitchy fingerling held for a time to weigh its worth in my hand. What had I but time? Slowly the fish returned to their purposes, busying after meanings known only to them. I sought a lunker’s heft and measure, but a small fry netting small fry I remained. How does 70 differ? Thoughts like fish still school in my mind, the smaller easily claimed, the lunkers slippery as eels, and I’d say I’m still alone, swiping at minnows, though sometimes, sizing up life’s grandest ideas, I myself feel lifted— supported—by others’ hands, as if they judge the worth of this man caught in their net.
The Widow in Black
He'd have thought at once: raccoon! The snow had gone, the boars had done their work, the sows, heavy with young, needed somewhere to nest. Surely the beast climbed the apple tree, took the leap—a hefty THUMP would've torn him from his late-night book. The devils, always on the lookout for some ingress to the attic. And had I not said, “Prune the limbs”? I can see it all: fearing those rooftop scrabblings would add fuel to my fire of vexation were I to awaken—the moon eerily silvering the trees and the grass— out he snuck, fetching ladder and a club to show some heinous squatter a thing or two, then mounted stealthily each rung to prevent their groaning beneath his heft. A boy-man on a sanguinary mission, did he see himself a warrior cresting a battlement, weapon ready, a sudden shiver of dread delighting him, a smidgen of danger like a sauce he'd long since gone without? What else could possess a man wearing super bowl slippers to ascend in darkness a lofty wall and clamber atop a pitched roof bent on scaring to hell an intruder hissing and snarling from its vantaged perch? This much is clear: neither eyes nor teeth need have shone in moonlight down at him nor provoked his final curse and cry. I’d much rather heard him softly sigh, “Dear, I pruned that tree. Shall we play now?”
©2020 Darrell Petska
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