I am a former teacher of English and for many years worked in social services addressing the needs of residents in affordable housing. There is pure joy for me in sharing my poetry, in relating the many wonders of life and human experiences as a mature observer of people and nature.
Real Man in a Pink House?
A shock of sunlight arched across the rooftop of a perspective new home as my husband and I approached its driveway from the back seat of our realtor’s BMW. This was the last stop after a weary day’s trek through many disappointing “showings”. The house had possibilities, I thought, until my husband squinted past the band of golden sky and asked, “Is this house pink?”
Color scheme is important to this man of the Caribbean, a place where yellow and rose hibiscus are pastel appetizers on a plate of real earth colors, like those of mango and citrus which poke through trails of flora in a kaleidoscope of green and tangerine on their way to the sea. Could a man from “The Land of Mountains” who was accustomed to the stark white dwellings of the island, live in a house the same shade as my lipstick?
Hesitating, the realtor took a color cue from the look on her client’s face. Her professional voice lilted toward a thoughtful reply, “This house is listed as bisque.” Bisque sounded better than pink (known throughout the world as the most feminine of all colors), and the answer propelled us through the front door into a home which we enjoy today as our own. We are still not certain of the true color. Neighbors say it’s ecru; friends describe it as apricot, yet it is pink to others. Especially on a bright day, though, when the sun spreads a buttery wash over the clapboards, the house is warm and inviting. And for our money….it is bisque.
Six Months Later
A force unknown to me caused my feet to bring the rest of my body into the small room. As I stepped out of the sunshine, though, I determined not to let my nerves get the best of me. I kept thinking, I just want this to be over.
When my eyes got used to the darkness of deep green walls and dull commercial carpeting, I saw them. Two of them, girls in their early twenties with starched faces and crisp voices, looking like they just graduated from the College of Arts and Attitudes. The one with reddish hair acknowledged my entrance with a snap of her ponytail while the other raised a pointed finger and indicated, “I’ll be with you in a moment.”
Behind a sliding window, however, the girls continued to answer wailing telephones. A half hour of moments went by before I turned my attention from reading outdated issues of Newsweek to counting rows of tweed squares on gray chairs lined against the far wall. In the next half hour of moments, I had time to play with my pocket calculator and write out a grocery list. Then, just as I contemplated a visit to the unisex restroom, a clipboard was placed under my chin. Looking up I heard, “Fill in all the information and return this form to me.” I caught the pen which danced from the clipboard on a yard of tangled string and began to fill in the blanks.
At the same time, breaking from his mother’s hold, a young boy slammed the outer door and leaped into the unoccupied chair beside me. Nothing new about kids fidgeting and jiggling around when they have to wait. And so it was with him. He rocked and bounced, and tapped his shoes together making sure to hit my chair with each beat. This youngster was both talented and ambidextrous. He could whistle Old Macdonald Had a Farm and snap his fingers on both hands simultaneously. He knew how to make repugnant noises while sweeping his arms from side to side. His grandest sweep knocked my purse into the air spinning it to the floor like a toy top. I dove after it, loose change whizzing past me like shrapnel, lipsticks rolling under seats, parachutes of store receipts landing everywhere.
There was a sudden silence in which I crawled toward my scattered belongings, broken only by someone who raised a pointed finger above me and curtly announced, “The dentist will see you ….in a moment.”
Upon Our Visitor’s Stopping
He made the trip this October by rail and on foot, wandering through small woods, by lily ponds and cranberries running wild, and ended up under the comforting thickness of the big cedar outside the south window. Father stoked a lazy fire and gesturing with the sizzling poker, directed Annie and me to hide the good scotch. There was a pounding on the door, and at last the window was raised. Father asked,
‘What do you want?’
‘I want to stay here all night.’
‘All right-stay there.’
And down went the window.
Father’s humor, dry as cured herring and stolen from the wit of Daniel Webster was repeated every autumn upon our visitor’s stopping.
The night grew raw but clear. We could see Dumpling Rock Light flash one-four-three-one-four-three (I Love You, I Love You) as evening whispered shadows over the dunes and quieted the harbor. Our guest, having dodged the low-studded beams of the den, tucked himself against fat pillows on an overstuffed chair. Then raising his arms as a deacon might before a sermon, he began to romance us with familiar tales. The mantel clock ticked on as we were taken past forgotten burying grounds and told of folks lying there, of hunting and fishing in ancient places, and old houses that welcomed captains home from the sea. He rambled about weather and hurricanes and his own relatives, particularly his uncle who lived to be a hundred and ten. “The poor old man was so shrunk and withered, he used to sleep in a baby’s crib.”
First Annie yawned then myself. We said good-night respectfully, but instead of heading to our bedroom, Annie and I disappeared into the pantry where we settled ourselves on top of bulky lobster pots. Through the open door we saw Father put up the fire screen and watched the two men turning around and around thoroughly toasting themselves with the warmth. Glasses clinked as old friends honored each other in what seemed an endless salute, when suddenly the guest stepped down from the hearth and blurted:
WE’RE FOOT-slog-slog-slog-slogging’ over Africa
FOOT- foot-foot-foot-sloggin’ over Africa
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin’ up and down again)
There’s no discharge in the war!..
The compelling sound of Kipling’s rhyme exploded as two voices coming out of the den bounced from all about. They were marching with spare andirons carried on their shoulders like weapons, clompfing as though in soldier’s shoes across the hardwood floor…
Don’t-don’t don’t-don’t-look at what’s in front of you.
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin’ up and down again!),
Men-men-men-men-men go mad from watchin’ ‘em
An’ there’s no discharge in the war!
Verse after verse, they shouted and clamored until conscious of the fire dying, final words were recited.
A slight rustling in the cedars awakened us to an early morning fog. Annie and I found the two pennies our visitor had left us, distorted and dirty coins flattened by a locomotive. We toppled them into the old jar where we used to keep sea glass thinking about all the pennies we had collected over the years. Quietly, softly, as the muted whistle of a train faded somewhere into the distance, Annie and I brewed Father’s coffee.