My house is missing,
the safe, in-between house, after infancy and before high school.
It was brick, painted white, two-story with a greenhouse 
by its side.  Brick-pathed gardens my parents built lay in the rear,
a log cabin playhouse sat in snowball bushes nearby.

Its four acres seemed unending to a child of six romping 
with Great Danes.  I hid and played, gathered fruit 
in the North Forty, my father’s name for the apple orchard.
Asparagus grew in beds Dad had dug while I watched.
A tire swing hung from a hundred-year-old white oak.

My house is missing.
The greenhouse with its snapdragons and scented air is gone.
Old trees are fresh-cut stumps.  Everything is off-kilter 
like the shattered lights atop the old gate pillars.
The stone bridge across the creek leads nowhere.

Four Years Old

I hide on the balcony 
outside my room, hope 
I will not be found.
In my hands, held tight 
to my breast, are my
dearest possessions—two small
plastic horses, one red, one black.
I had misbehaved.
My tiny horses were to be taken 
away for what seemed forever.

Sixty Years Old

I gaze out my window
as the horses graze—
one chestnut, one black.  My memory 
hangs onto those tiny plastic horses, 
symbols of what is most dear to me 
now—the people I love.  
Some have already been taken
away forever.
I want to hide again, 
clutch those precious to my breast, hope 
they will never be found.

You can hear its whistle 
as the train pulls through 
the valley below—
cars of coal for Labadie. 
The train moves along 
the foot of the bluffs, past 
Spirit Airport, the Missouri 
to its north, hauls its cargo 
to the electric plant.

Once it was The Flats,
fields of corn and beans,
beaver, heron, fox, deer,
marshes, tangled stands of trees,
peace and natural beauty.
Once there was a café where 
men in overalls 
met for breakfast.

Now it is The Valley,
miles of floodlit, neon-trimmed,
industrial, retail, suburban, 
malls, restaurants, offices, hotels.
Corporate jets moan on concrete runways.
Artificial hills and sand traps stand
where beaver once built dens.

The whistle echoes from the bluffs
as the coal train to Labadie passes by.
The sound of the past runs
through the scenery of the future.

My two-year-old grandson runs around the table.
With a smile, his dad says, Stop.
The boy yells back, 
No stop. Go!  keeps 
running in glee
round and round the table.

I look at my cancer, get a lesson in body 
mechanics—what causes what to stop, go, 
rise, flow.  Now it’s so automatic—
brain desires, body functions.
But that may all change.

At sixty, June Allison’s ads take on new meaning.
At sixty, flows that started at puberty will cease.
At sixty, I yell back,
No stop.  Go!

Everything shook and rattled at my school
in the spring of `52, under the flight path 
of Lambert-St. Louis Airport.  I was eleven, 
part of the school’s five-percent Jewish quota.

Times called for careful assimilation—
I went to Jewish Sunday School every week,
but it was in my nearly non-Jewish school
I watched a black-and-white
In the dark, alone, 
I saw pictures of souls taking flight.

My innocence 
rose into the sky,
rattling more than windows.

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