Friday, May 22, 2015

IN GRASS by Fred Poole

I did not think this was following a pattern, that it was like something else, something that was known to other people and that now I, like them, knew it too. That’s not the way I was thinking now or on any of the many times I went south from our yard, across the final part of the driveway loop, past the stream of clear water that came down from a hill and went into a pipe that took it under the road to whatever was on the other side, which was a Chinese-style garden full of pathways that ended at the river. Heading south after the stream of clear water what came next was the yard of a small house next door and then through an opening of one of the many stone walls that were everywhere around here, and from the stone wall into a field with no house in it. 

I knew how it would smell before I got there and laid down on my stomach and with my eyes open, breathing air that had dried grass and leaves  and new grass and earth in it, looking right into the grass, and seeing what was there, as if looking at it this way was to see it magnified many times, an ant was walking by, a grass hopper skedaddling, and there was a lazy caterpillar, and some more ants, and sometimes a beetle. And around me the sounds of the field, soft sounds, birds mostly who would make their bird noises, and then there would be silence, and then the birds would be back. I did not see any snakes or squirrels or chipmunks but I knew they were close at hand.

I did not wonder if anyone else had ever laid down in a summer field this way to enjoy what was in the grass. Grass and some pine needles that had made their way there from the hill, and also a leaf or two. I breathed deep. This situation where I knew and it did not occur to me to ask if anyone else knew. Though wondering about what other people saw and felt, wondering how you were supposed to experience the world, which came up over and over in my head. I would hear sentimental talk on the radio about what a boy’s life was supposed to be like. And I heard the same thing later in the Cub Scouts. But in this field there was nothing about what was supposed to be. And I did not think I would ever tell anyone about my going into the field. 

I remembered it from one summer to the next. When we went away for the summer, I would check on it quickly when we got back -- over there north of our yard and the stream, and the stone wall.  My grandfather Gaga, who was a writer, talked about how things were supposed to be. So did my twin Peter, from the time we were 2 or 3 years old. And it was said he would be a writer too. But in good times -- like being belly down in the field and joining in the life that I saw there, it seemed either unimportant or liberating that I did not know what Gaga and Peter knew.

Friday, May 8, 2015


The stories I was told were probably lies:

My mother committed suicide.

I was a paskudnyak (a parasite, like a tick or a lice) or I was a choleryeh (which is cholera, a basically incurable, fatal case of diarrhea).

My mother was turning over in her grave to see my behavior.

If I didn’t behave I’d be sent to live in an orphanage or a home for bad girls. There I’d see what it was like to have not enough to eat, and no shoes, and I’d be cold, with not enough blankets at night, and I couldn’t get out of there: there’d be bars on the windows and the doors would be locked.

Then I’d appreciate all I had.

I would have to scrub floors and wash clothes and hang them outside, even in the freezing cold, and there would be no school, and no sleighriding in winter, and no swimming in summer.

And then I’d realize how fortunate I was now.

And my mother committed suicide because she was so unhappy.

And it was all lies.