Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Story Poems

“Streaker”—written for my brother Gary Arthur Thompson—tells what could happen if any of us took our eyes off her one moment too long.

STREAKER

All afternoon he talks with her. Cares for her.
Washes her hair; cuts her nails. Tracks her. . .
As if he's tied to the table leg next to her chair.

One little minute, his eyes wander.
Her right hand unties her robe. Fuzzy pink plaid falls away.
She leans forward. Flips the footrest down.
Another lean grips her aluminum horse.

G: "Gotta go! Mom's stripped."
He presses the red button. This call ended.

On his way home, just past Beltrees, he calls back.
G: "Got the Streaker."

As a naughty little boy I'm sure he never thought that decades later
he'd have to tackle mother, naked as a new-hatched jaybird,
and slide her back into that fuzzy pink robe.

There are varying lengths of the 90 poems in the book—short, medium, long, and bedtime story-long. The story poems are the backbone of the book, with lyric poems interspersed as grace notes. Because there was a story to be told—a story of loss—and a story of finding within that loss—a story of and for the families of the world.

“Five-Horse Hitch” is one of those grace-note poems. My father would want me to point out that there is, in the physical world, no such thing as a five-horse hitch. In the world of the poem horses pulling a one-person buggy are likened to hastening time . . . and that old-fashioned schoolroom pastime of conjugating verbs.

FIVE-HORSE HITCH

We flick the lines to reign in time’s runaway horse.
The horse neighs and its flanks quiver.
It’s a five-horse hitch that pulls this one-person buggy,
in harness for the last time.
Uneven, to be sure, but they were all stabled
in the same barn when we set out on our trip home:
Past, past perfect, present, future, future perfect.
It’s not the passenger that weighs so much.
It’s the baggage.

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  1. When I talked, played, and sang of “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary” | Riehl Life: Village Wisdom for the 21st Century

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