[lit-ideas] Re: Thursday Poem

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2006 17:01:50 -0700

Before reaching the site where proselytizers were killed--
they were inefficiently spreading gospel and measles,
it's a tragic tale, with a kid drowning and Mrs. Eel raising the alarm--
we sped past stands of new wind-generating mills,
some old boarded stores,
many thriving wineries,
and a cheese shop that,
possibly in view of the auld alliance--
but I doubt this was intended--
sold Tobermory cheddar with French blue infection.

We entered Walla Walla off route 125,
met the new president--
a sociologist with all the necessary bow and Washington ties--
were talked at and to,
sampled classroom experiences,
how the cafeteria treats Indian food.

You'll have guessed we were wondering
whether to send our daughter to Whitman,
a college built beside the site of a famous slaughter.
A first hint of how my judgment would go
was when Deborah Butterfield's lovely stick horse
suddenly reminded me of bones.

We drove home.

Now I reflect and prefer to recommend
the other event of that weekend,
turning fifty with friends.

Sometimes it is the company that makes a mood.
People ask how I feel about knowing life is half or maybe two thirds gone.
I tell them of our crabbing expedition--
the falling tide must be blamed for our poor haul--
our Ancient and Venerable Order of Fishy Geezers' foundation outing,
and the very good steaks we bought on the road home.

Like veterans, those who came to dinner--
nurses, physical therapists, artists, doctors--
in their daily rounds often note
both signs of hope
and decay.

So we all savored, if not each bite going--
some swallows I confess slipped through--
the laughter, chatter, patter and wit
around the table,
the full ribbed round of
warm hours burning down.

With last finger licks and tastes of champagne,
folk surveyed the final rubble on the table.
Nor Huns nor Romans, nor even Henry eight, spared
and wrapped up cake for you,
clutched it,
vanished with designated drivers in the wee hours,
and happiness under arms, way west of Waiilatpu.
I went up to bed.

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon

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