Monday, July 29, 2013

Tom Sawyer on a Latesummer Night's Dream

Calling myself Tom is a poetic stretcher,
but since this here's a poem, I'll let er fly.

Was it an old memory at 3 AM last night
while spinning inside my head sleepless,
or was it the memory of an old dream?
I'd have to flip a Confederate coin to know.

Took place in a rolling, roaming countryside,
not flat like here, with cotton, beans, maize.
It was old-fangled south Arkansas country,
where mysterious-wild, heavy trees thought.

I was 12 and spent the night with Gary Love
(Clyde Gray might have too, but I ain't sure),

way out in the country where his family lived.
If this really happened, we snuck out excited
into midnight, moonlight, fairy-scented air.
The season here for watermelon-pilfering!

We lit out over the rolling, wooded countryside,
like sly Injuns after a rancher's prized palomino. 
We scampered here and we bush-ducked there,
then right onto the wide-open space for running
full-tilt, eye-bulging, goose-fleshing throttle!

But let's back up for just a patient second.
I got another maybe memory pokin' through.
There might have been a ghost guy in a hat,
sitting under a hickory tree, smoking a pipe,
giving us good advice on stealing melons.

That ain't really no nevermind.
So back to running like the wind
over the damp grass somewhere
in a south Arkansas late summer.

Must've been three hundred yards
to the melon farmer's large patch.
We prayed he was fast asleep, not
waiting with a rock-salt shotgun.

Me and Gary (and Clyde?) got nice melons!
Lugged our treasure through dim moon glow.
What did we tell Gary's momma the next day
with our oblong evidence of bedtime larceny?
If it really happened, she'da wore us flat out
with a sweet-gum switch cut fresh to order.
And not phoned ahead to other mothers
for written, certified, legal permission.

This happened or it didn't happen.
I'm too weary now to sort it all out.

But when you're sleepless in Arkansas,
it's like having amnesia among nostalgics
at a meeting for wistfulness addiction.

Something's bound to burst on through 
to keep yourself company while awake,
to weave vines in the ripening night.

~ TB, 2013

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