October 19, 2018
A Front Porch, Climate Changes, and California Suite
by Richard Luftig
A Front Porch
They built the house when Coolidge was in office;
the father of a war bride whose husband came home
from France. Who knows how many owners
after that: Records in those days were scarce.
We bought it in the winter of ’77, fresh
out of college. When we broke into the walls
to expand the baby’s room, we found old newspapers
used for insulation about Lindberg’s flight.
That first Fourth of July we woke to find our porch
packed with people wearing blue ribbons;
judges for the town’s parade of high school bands
and homemade floats hitched to the backs
of pickup trucks. At the head, the cherry-red
Olds convertible with a sign for Graham Insurance
stenciled on each door. And the elderly couple—
the Grand Marshals, sitting in the backseat—
She, wearing a gown with a purple sash, blowing kisses.
He, in a suit and fedora, throwing handfuls
of Tootsie Pops to the children in the crowd.
My wife, still in her pajamas, began to brew
fresh coffee for the judges and I made toast.
So, this is how it is in a town,
she whispered, and I could see she was happy.
Now our children are grown and gone
along with the judges, the vintage Olds,
probably that couple throwing their kisses.
And the paper plant too, the shoe factory, us.
Gone to bigger places, better climes,
leaving that old porch to sag for itself,
list under its weight without even a chance
to prop up any last, resurrected dreams.
So, this is how it is in a town, she says.
But I cannot read the look on her face.
If winter is what death is like
and spring predicts its fever,
then autumn’s grip must occur
when leaves and tall grasses
are held hostage to November
as they struggle to stay alive
if only for a few weeks more.
It has been this way as long
as she can remember,
her life little more than force
of habit, no, more like instinct,
when birds weighed down
by parenthood search the skies
for just the right time to head
in southern, chevron flight.
It is not sadness or even regret
that plays out these days,
more like just having to live
out her world along the fringed,
jagged edges, the way they did
all the while they owned
the farm, raised children,
and watched clouds, trying
to cause rain by their sheer
force of will, studying the weather
together until the day he left her
to develop a cold front of her own.
It is always hard
Making these final goodbyes
To the choke cherries
And still-fallow fields of corn.
I sigh to the pines as I leave.
Driving through Kansas,
Fireflies alit through humid dusk.
Dry lightning flashes
Cleave through darkening night,
Makes fierce faces on the moon.
The late afternoon
Seriations of sunlight
Bounce off the cacti.
A hawk circles aloft for prey.
I pray I’m not what he has in mind.
Riot among the grasses
When I wasn’t looking.
It is often most like this
When you call a new place home.
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