Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dear Mr. Wilson

Dear Mr. Wilson,

I am unemployed. I am a poet.
I hope you don't take these facts about myself in a bad way.
Mr. Wilson, you may have known my father.
He had a 32" softball bat and a left-handed glove. 
I could always make six out of ten free throws from the foul line.
Our family was a secure one and a happy one.

Saturdays have always been my favorite day.
In the old neighborhood I wore a red sweat jacket with a patch
of the Chicago Sting sewn on where a shirt pocket might be.
The Chicago Sting is a soccer team. I was a great soccer player.
Unfortunately, my pep never got utilized thoroughly in,
that other sport, baseball. I would wear that sweat jacket
on Saturdays and rake leaves. I often got paid for chores around
the neighborhood, but I don't especially remember if I got paid
on Saturdays. This memory is permeated with the smell
of leaves burning. By evening, I usually began to get lonely.
I would walk home thinking of one pitcher especially.
My dad usually had a game on television.
His favorite team was the Boston Red Sox.

In the seventh grade I took a position at one of our local
baseball camps. I taught outfielders to turn their back
on the ball and chase it down with glove outstretched.
One of my students is the current centerfielder
for the St. Louis Cardinals. You may have his baseball card.

Upon graduation from high school, I took a job teaching
carving for a dollhouse company. My salary was paid
by an endorsement I did for the LimeDime popscicle product.
I often traveled. I made a point of walking into the poorer
neighborhoods on these trips. I was not scared. I found people
were usually happy with an explanation such as, "Hi, I have
a little girl. It's her birthday, and I'm snooping around
for some rags to make her a doll."

It's amazing that people never mind their own business
once you're friendly to them. On one porch I sat down on,
two little boys were tussling over a piece of curtain
that the red-headed one worked from his friend's shoulder.
He had been using it to attach a tree branch to his back.
As I walked up the stairs, I passed him marching around
like a soldier. It actually would have made a good scarf
for a doll if I had been creative in those days.

Dear Mr. Wilson,

My brother and I play at toy soldiers.
My sister is at the kitchen table. She is painting a dollhouse.
There is a signing off on my mom's show,
and we all gather around the radio to hear the clues
of Tom Mix - a cowboy on the trail of an outlaw Indian.
The toy soldiers are scattered, and my sister's painting supplies
are not put back in her bin. My father's paper is turned
to the page he stopped at in order to listen to the closing
of the program. We sit for a while in peace.
I tap my brother on the shoulder. My sister lights a candle
in the living room. I ascend the staircase first.
We dream of how to solve The Case of the Masked Man
which is this week's mystery. At breakfast the next day
we never talk about our dreams. 

Dear Mr. Wilson,

My dad's office is in the other direction than my walk
home from school. Sometimes my brother and I have exhausted
strategies for our skirmishes. I walk a few extra blocks
to the office. Mother serves tea. I drink the lukewarm tea.
Father uses a tin cup. I settle up to his drafting table.
I go over his drawings of the tilt-boards he uses to compartmentalize
the knobs and reels of the cameras that Orson Wells uses.
Sometimes I have just begun doodling. He walks in, messes up
my hair, and says, "Ain't that the truth."

I usually walk out the side door after that. My train of thought
is interrupted, but sometimes it's a good thing. On my way home
from the office, I stop at a basketball backboard. It is attached
to a tree hit by lightning. Mr. Wilson helped my father bolt
a metal rim to the stark face of the tree.

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