There was the pretzel cart on the wide sidewalk.
The ice cream truck, Good Humor, trolled all summer.
Johnny the donut man was always the favorite.
Slow planes circled the airfield. Their engines’ thrumming
rare and low as hummingbirds.
My brother could catch squirrels and sparrows
in a trap he made from a box, a stick and some string.
A boy named Glen could hit a baseball over the roof
of our two story row house. When the rough kids chased us
from the ball field because they wanted to drink beer
we played stickball in the street.
In school we learned to duck and cover.
Nuns taught the old math and did what they could to turn
the unfortunate lefthanders. God still spoke a foreign language.
Sunday mass was a solemn ghost story, strange with the mysterious allure
of God’s body trapped in an atom of bread.
People were beginning to ask questions in loud voices.
Young men were refusing to die for reasons they did not understand.
Music became a sign of grace, poetry the howl of an anthem.
The world invaded our homes. Television broke down the walls.
Childhood slipped through our fingers, became our wake in the river –
the long slow river making its own blind way to the sea.