V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




Forty years ago this night (a whir now
with the cicadas’ never-dying thrum)
inside the rambling family beach house,
you slept, the stone sleep of an eight-year old,
until the sirens wrenched the house awake.                              

Years ago, trains freighted cattle in cars
headed to the Chicago slaughter yards,
but your Uncle Charles, a meat-packing heir
and bachelor, who owned this once-estate,
stabled his Jersey cows behind blue-tinted

glass, providing milk for his weekend guests. 
Our rented house, built on the site of grass
tennis courts, remains flanked by aging sycamore,
hemlock.  A map displays the summer gardens,
Rabbitry and Ornamental Bird Pond.

That night your mother had declined the offer,
made by a friend, to take the children out
for ice cream treats.  Instead, she tucked each child
safely in bed.  The crash of waves lulled you
to sleep, but then you heard the sirens racing

down Red Arrow Highway. The speeding pickup,
chased by a police car, killed instantly
the young mother and her two children
crossing the road for ice cream.  Their car radio
drowned out the police car’s alarm.

We search for sleep, but the crescendo
of the cicadas, clustered in the leaves,
swells and distends, a train that never reaches
its destination.  An Amtrak train blasts
its horn while the cicadas clatter on.


© by Elise Paschen


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