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.



Climate Changes


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.



California Suite


1.To Friends


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.


3.Death Valley


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.




Poppies erupt,

Riot among the grasses

When I wasn’t looking.

It is often most like this

When you call a new place home.