My Once America

When I walked two hours and two pay-phone calls knee-deep in the warm milky snow to know you would be at the end of the snow-day adventure.

When there was a whistle my father had a way to call you home.

When after the school play Rhonda Derry said "Mr. Kingsley I presume" from the script with proper accent and I kissed her hand like a gentleman.

When it was to the roof with a telescope and beer to see the moon.

When giants tottered toward Steven and I on High Street.

When Chucky stole his father's work truck--I heard the ladder and buckets the white plastic pickle buckets jolt the chain the tools jump and jolt when we rammed the work truck up the bank back from bowling beer fooseball and Space Invaders.

When the church had a fair and Festus was eating a sno-cone a blue raspberry fool fish-lipping his ticket. The raffle for ham and the ping-pong ball man calling numbers over the folding friends and the lightbulb chain hanging around the fair.

When with Steven and Randy Yost drinking Mountain Dews jumping monkeying rolling passing and buzzing in some far farmer's field the four of us from the rolling machine. The artesian well my cool throat and the meteors falling on my birthday. The rutted shock-wrecking lane near the tracks the house set back a-ways waiting for a dream train a dream bale to fall from some dream train magically. Some summer dust still hanging in this room some sound. A long curving limestone mound.

When I walked those same tracks home down past Depot St. the stark green house my father was born in. He shoveled coal for the trains or so I was told. A legend who waking on early Sunday mornings found me folding newspapers for delivery. And me on my route knowing all the doors and bells and robes and smells--other houses' smells always strange not home. Winter colds frost and the taste of my scarf from breath.

When Chucky put a frisbee from the playground through the second story school window while there was a class and we laughed even the teacher. Goofing goofing goofing, and keeping it up till they had to come pick us up or they agreed to let us come home from the Fairhope Police Station on our own from booting sand candles into traffic that night those glowing stout jug candles from milk jugs lining both sides of Main Street commemoratively the gallons of sand spilt.

When a black shingle fell from the wet shed roof slicing down and then on the ground became a crow. It hopped turning, and cawed.

Green green sneakers wet from mowing and sweet. Neighbors passing in cars on 5th St.

I go back, Carol, opening the door to cool Sunday mornings on my skin. Anything can happen while my parents with another baby. And I walk out to my new bike kickstand up back out and swing on and kick and I'm gone--out into my once America--to delivery to everyone the good news.

—Timothy Hoffman