Back in the days when I was young,
Winters were long and summers
Never seemed long enough to dwell in
Contemplation of the lightening bugs
Captured in Bell jars, holes in the lids
So they could breath. I hated that they died
By morning light, translucence turned to lead.
Some winters there were drifts that covered
Bedroom windows, blocking light morning, noon,
Even cold stars at night. In such frigid temperatures,
How could Jesus find me, covered as I was in
Blankets on the bed, knees askew and close to head?
Yes, I’m sure they had it worse in Saskatchewan,
Though once the paper said it was as cold
As surface on Mars, considering wind chill.
Thank God there were no dust storms; no plagues of locusts.
We managed population of frogs on
My grandfather’s farm ponds, feeding a
Childish imagination that eating frog legs
Would permit you to jump higher
Than those who only ate chicken. Back then,
Chickens ranged free, as all chickens should,
Until necks were rung and prepared to fry.
In Boy Scouts, I learned to march in time
Down in the basement of the church— left, right,
Left, right as we made a trip around the room.
Camping out on the edge of the lake, we collected
Mosquito bites like merit badges, learned history
On a fifty-mile trek that followed old wagon trails.
I remember unfolding a wrinkled canvas tent,
Finding a scrap of paper hidden inside folds
With “I love you” printed in pencil.
I never found who wrote that note
But wondered for years
Why a Boy Scout would be up to no good.
Clear water to fish; flat stones to skip on the ponds.
Mowing grass, riding horses out on the farm.
Memories remain, tumbling and polished by time.
In dreams, I’m still a boy and the small town
Has never changed. Before morning, I know
My grandmother still lives, back in the years
Before cancer destroyed hope that love would last.
Then the edges splinter. The dinner bell rings,
Calling me inside for dinner, after which
There’s one last hour for lightening bugs,
Communicating in some silent commentary.
Then as bugs and stars are wearing down,
I say my prayers to Jesus, and the air is sweet,
Dreamy embers of the starry sky and sleep.