This poem came to me gradually as I walked around historic Riverside, an area of Jacksonville along the St John’s River. There is something about pounding the pavement rhythmically that stirs up rhyme in the brain. I dashed down as much as I could remember when I came home. I hope you enjoy it and that you, too, have a place to walk, where you can enjoy the creations of both man and Nature.
Fair warning, it’s a bit longer than usual. I haven’t had to do much in the way of TLDR (Too long/ Didn’t read) warnings lately, but perhaps this is one. I hope not! Thanks for coming by.
I walk again. I walk along
The city’s most historic street.
That old, decrepit, broke-down house
Is full of people you should meet,
Although it is an eyesore
To the idle rich, to the elite,
To everyone, who cares about
The fate of quaint, historic streets.
Except the bums and vagabonds,
The addicts and the old and meek,
Who quaff their liquor, score their grass
And opioids, inside. Discreet,
Within this door, just half-ajar,
The leaden paint peels in the heat
Against their backs, while paper, pale,
Evokes much better times, oblique.
And on my walk, I pass a nun,
Whose habit is to walk as well,
Who stops before the frozen Mary,
Praying I won’t go to Hell,
Or so one would suppose. Her thoughts
Are hidden under black and white,
And though I say, “Good morning, Sister,”
She says nothing. Left and right,
I plod along the Saint John’s River,
Sparkling in the morning light.
The little nun, she speeds on past me,
On her way to make things right.
And while I gaze, the morning’s pallette
Pulls my eyes from blue to blue,
With whitened diamonds shivering,
And fluffy clouds a steely hue.
At last I’m home and take my rest
Beneath the oak’s great canopy.
I watch the branches swirl and wooden arms
Gently envelope me.
I see a jet trail mount the sky,
Its upward struggle baffling,
Until it hits its chosen height,
Beneath the cloud bank, waffling.
Not bursting through to outer space.
Instead, it parallels the ground,
And, lost in branches to my sight,
It disappears, without a sound.
Meanwhile, the quieter I sit,
The more I lay my head back flat–
Daring birds to target-practice,
Mouth kept closed, in case of that–
The more they flit from branch to branch,
Small sparrows, Carolina wrens,
Their safety-yellow pale with distance,
Woodpeckers appearing then,
In profile. With a hop, they’re gone,
And crows are cawing from the roof
Or chimney, and melodic trills
Are spreading Birdland’s chirping news.
And then I wonder, like I venture
Once the Ancients must have done,
“What is that bird?” I scour the tree
For evidence, for even one
Faint glimpse. But as I turn my head,
The tree goes silent. And a car
Starts up next door, and I’m reminded,
Who I am and where we are.
That I could go for decades, never
Mimicking an Ancient’s thought!
Why call a place so young “historic?”
It remembers. We do not.
Copyright 2022 Andrea LeDew
For a narrative poem about an old, scary house, read The Other Side. For a poem about losing yourself in wild, wide open spaces, read Big Sky. For a very short story about the Ancients being more attuned to Nature than we are, read Shoeless. For a glimpse of Riverside at Christmas, read the short-short story, Riverside Luminaria.