We are having cambric tea
at a wobbly card table
set out on my best friend’s lawn –
she and I and her visiting cousin,
Marian, a bug-eyed girl,
proud and cross,
who kind of scares me.
Through the hedge
from our back yard
comes my four-year-old brother,
Peter, bearing a plate of cookies,
to join in the party.
“Get out,” says Marian.
“Go away,” says my friend.
And I just sit there,
recording the scene forever:
the little boy turns, confused,
as the plate tips, cookies fall,
and stumbles – I am silent –
back home through the hedge.

Lois Maguire’s Hair

If yours was the desk
behind hers
you could watch
all through arithmetic
Lois twisting one
of those golden curls
around her finger
see it spring back
to join the tight others
that her mother
must have pinned up
on Sunday nights
since all week
they grew looser
although still beautiful
and despite your
terrible envy
you could feel that curl
become your own thought
that drew out
was reshaped
so you sat up straight
with the answer


Compass Points

The summer before the porch was enclosed
we’d eat our card-table suppers out there,
as the sun set behind the Steeles’ house,
and sooner or later Dad would decide
we had to review the compass points.
He’d stand one of us, back to him, and ask:

“If your left hand is pointing West
— that’s where the sun sets, remember–
what direction are you facing?”
South.  No – North –
we’d stammer.  “That’s right.”
Then, turning us by the shoulders
like in Blind Man’s Bluff, he’d say:
“Now you’re facing me,
with the garden behind you (North).
In what direction am I standing?”

I’m not sure why this brief obsession.
But soon the porch, enclosed and ordinary,
became the New Room, called that ever after,
a place where many years later our mother
would read in the low green chair
by the window, the afternoon sun coming in
(West) from where the Steeles once lived,
behind her (North) what used to be his garden.