FOR A FRIEND


Just you and me and boyhood memories
And maybe more remains.
Not the first
But the best of our lives
Were spent fearlessly
And painlessly in our innocuous home town.
First grade, second grade;
Miss Wheatley, Mrs. Schaefer;
Funny
How some things
Cling
To our memory.
And the computer
That was named after the principal.
(You
Always could remember
The name.)
Your laugh was deep,
Loud and deep,
And always sounded
Far too forced.
Only I could tell.

Can you remember our debut?
The first grade performance of a lifetime.
You were Benny Bookworm, "Stories are my thing,"
And I was the letter "M."
(You
Were always
The star.)
With "deely-boppers"
(They didn't call them that then)
And an aquamarine cellophane body
(How hard it was to find that)
You looked more
Like a crinkly-crackly walking iceberg
Than a fairy tale bug.
But looks are deceiving.

Guppies.
The stream, or rather trickle behind your house
Where we would fish with
Home-made nets, replacing
Each guppy
With a memory.
(We
Caught millions.)
I wonder into how many rivers
Does our stream flow.
(Hundreds
Of millions.)
'It ain't a big stream.
(Don't say "ain't).

Your driveway,
Site of the innumerable
Head-to-head
Down to the wire
Games.
You with your Spalding hockey stick
And goalie pads
(No fair, you play on a team),
And me with only my determination
On the baking, beaten blacktop,
(I never knew hockey was a year round sport).
I never could manage to top you.
Year after year,
Goalie for our local team
And no missing teeth!
(You
Were always
The athlete.)
We climbed
The crab-apple tree in your yard
And shook the branches
Until the not quite ripe apples
Speckled the patches of tawny, dried-out lawn.
You always did manage
To climb higher
And shake harder
Until
You moved away.

Our little town,
No longer harmless,
Left me to wonder
(I
Was always
The thinker.)
And we visited
Once or twice.
Well, once.
Your Mom's baked red snapper was delicious,
As always.
But there were more important
Things
Than the hockey stick,
Or the guppies,
Or the computer,
(Whose name
You
Always could remember)
And
We also moved away.

When I last saw you
(You still play hockey)
More than half our lives
Had been spent apart.
Yet,
(Dinner? I'd love to!)
Somehow,
(You're still goalie for a local team)
More than half our lives
Have been together.
(I
Am still
The thinker.)
And, if not always the same,
We will always be a pair.





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