Photograph courtesy of Library of Congress
Elizabeth and the Tramps
The dandelions always grew, even in 1930;
They ran the fields to the fence where all the boards had fallen,
And if, arrayed in clothes and dirt, they cut across the grass lot
The tramps could beat the watchful men who lay for them with rifles.
If they could make her back door, they could beg for dimes and nickels,
A chicken wing, or three square yards on Grandma’s floor for sleeping.
Her yeses earned her word among the sons of the Depression
Who traipsed to her in random flocks and seldom lost her mercy,
Found succor for their freight car mouths, bandages for the broken,
A shoe that almost fit a foot, and small talk if they wanted.
Night, train time, called the tramps away. A couple stayed on longer
Then struck out aimless through the dandelions that grew always.
Bach’s Great Theme
is God arising from trouble. Beginnings welcome
you; a folk song you know
or wish you knew gives way
to hurdles, threats, twinges, changes wrung
out of memory (watery light box);
you climb walls of thorns to
reach the wasteland, sun in your
eyes; valleys fill with mist, milk,
carillons; lighthouses necklace the coast; the
drunken river of song urges backward;
bass and melody leapfrog; branches whip
across your face; mainspring time relaxes.
Does the Orchestral Suite No. 3
in D Major, second movement, move, or
do you? Moving to be living,
to know, to hear, bear this
chord, those scraps of theme around
corners like spies of the spirit?
Haunts, rehaunts. New fields render alien
the childhood path. Have you been
led? Or is being here, the end, wrung,reset
remapped, equal to hearing what you already
John Timpane is the Books and Fine Arts Editor/Writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philly.com. His work has appeared in Sequoia, The Fox Chase Review, Apiary, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Philadelphia Review of Books, The Rathalla Review, Per Contra, Vocabula Review, and elsewhere. Among his books is a chapbook, Burning Bush (Judith Fitzgerald/Cranberry Tree, 2010).