There’s a Monster Out Back

As a sickly newborn,

(They sent my parents home

on day two,

told them to order a coffin.)

I cannot remember, but

I am sure it defines certain behaviors

erupting over five decades later–

the intensity of the incubator,

back in the day, 24/7.

Well, surprisingly, it worked,

and somehow the mucus plugs

buried deep in both lungs, dislodged.

No one was more surprised

than the doctor, who provided

treatment for the next ten years

free of charge, because

resiliency surprised him so.

Welcome to planet earth.

We hope you enjoyed the ride.

My childhood repetitive nightmare

was traversing a narrow boardwalk

with alligators in the waters,

then the deafening sound

of a train approaching,

then inside a chicken coop

under attack by a coyote,

feathers flying everywhere.

At this point,

my parents would wake me,

the fever often over 104 degrees,

and into a cold bath I’d be dropped.

There’s a monster out back,

and it’s pissed I yet breath

and dare to call it out.

Punch Drunk

I remember: the middle school dance, being punch drunk and girl silly and when the DJ finally played a slow song, the desperation not to be on the outside looking in, but to have somehow managed the trust in the scramble of two hundred teens, that when the speakers were belting out forever yours, grateful not to end up on the bleachers, but to go skin to skin.

The Woods

Foliage by Richard Reeve

Out back, behind the house,

the woods,

where all the children

of the neighborhood gathered.

There was one stately pine

we’d boys climb until

cowardness set in

and we would turn back

around and lie

to each other

that we had touched the top.

There were benefits to these lies,

as our “sisters” would take us

over to the stream

and lay us down

on a bed of moss,

pull down our pants

and demand

a hero’s welcome.

Unfortunately, men continue

to lie this way,

on Wall Street and in DC,

failing to reach the needed heights

demanded by true leadership

because they are a bit too eager

to find yet another bed of moss.

Only women will lead

the world out

of the current mess.

Men, I’m afraid,

no longer have the capacity.

(Thank you to Michael for reminding me never to mention these things.)

The Croup

Frosted Field by Richard Reeve

The lungs and the larynx

so weakened by the delivery

that at ten years old

I was the kid

seated in the back corner

of the classroom

sounding off in triplets,

a wheezing cough

you might mistake

for emphysema,

disrupting the class

till I’d be sent on silly errands

so the other kids could try to focus

on their lessons.

Often it was to give the janitor

a message, Mr. Mercury,

a retiree that carved walking sticks

out of maple saplings, the root balls

providing provocative crowns

to each of his staffs.

He’d let me handle his pocket knife

and work along some roughness

he had yet to attend to.

Till this day, he defines for me

kindness and care,

and has continued as my guide

for what it means to be human.


North Branch by Richard Reeve

My grandfather,

before I was school aged,

would take me tromping

through the woods.

I’d carry

a short fishing rod

and a kreel.

When we reached

the crik, a tiny stream

even then I could jump

in places,

onto the hook

he would place

a kernel of corn,

then proceed

to show me

where to drop the line

so the bait would be pulled

to where he suspected

a trout lay in wait.

To lift a brookie!

a tiny trout, no more

than seven inches,

bounty from the stream.

With six small fish

added to the kreel,

our lunch secured,

we’d head deeper

into the woods

to the remnants

of abandoned homesteads,

the stone foundations

all that remained.

We’d turn the soil

with a hand shovel.

until a bottle or tin can

from the previous century


When we meet again

the first thing I’ll ask:

Grandpa, when can we

go pirating again?