Hook, line, and sinker

Summer Saturdays
were spent in the garage
sanding down fiberglass
smooth as tanning butter
until my arms were tired
and my legs were red
from itching the dust
off my winter white skin.

I didn’t complain
because soon the sun
and the boat would be ready
to slip on an early morning
onto the cool waters of Long Lake
where Daddy would show me
a secret place that only he knew
where the fish were jumping wild.

I learned real quick
to keep a poker face
as we put the barbed hooks
through the worm’s inner tunnels
and I knew they didn’t mind
’cause I never heard ’em scream.

The day was all
that a child could dream
quiet as the water
and as slow as the sun
as it slipped through the ripples
the bobber leisurely rode
as the line dragged out
behind our boat.

But all good things must come to an end
’cause the beer ran out
before I knew my dad
and I felt the slap
burning through my cheek
as I bailed water
from the hole in the boat
but he knew I didn’t mind
’cause he never heard me scream.

Before we made crust

Without the scent of cinnamon
you wouldn’t know Saturday from Sunday.

Today, Sunday, pie day
Momma turned her head away from me
when I asked for the scraps of dough
for crust cookies.

No. She wasn’t done peeling apples.
Couldn’t I see that?

Then her knife began slicing
with an urgency that I didn’t recognize.

Peelings piled in curls
that on any other day
could spell out the first letter
of my future husband’s name.

Today they lay limp.
I was afraid to reach for another one
after the first stinging slap
afraid to not watch the pile grow.

I don’t think she should have peeled
one whole bag
but I wasn’t going to tell her so.
I am not an expert pie maker
like Momma.

Twenty-six naked apples
had rolled to their flat side on the table.
She stood there
tears splattering down
until Daddy came home
and took the knife from her hand.

Together
without the oven even on
we watched her apples brown.

Apples and cancer
bake a bitter pie.

Leaving Laos

My calves ached
with the knowledge
that hunger shouldn’t forget
the need to hide.
My sliver of smoke
was all that they needed
to set our feet on the trail.

He taught me well
with stripes of red
dripping down my ankles
yet I followed Uncle’s heels
leading out of the jungle.
We ran.

How fast can I run?
Surely as fast as Uncle.
If I had time to be proud
I would tell him so
but the path
tight and dark
and unforgiving
left no room
for bragging.

His leaves slapped me
but I understood his lack of manners.
No time for courtesy
the holding back of branches.
We ran.

Then the sound
cut through the bushes
faster than my fear.
“Run, little one,”
his panting breath urged me on.
“You are the smoke now.”

I left him there
like half-cooked chicken.
No time for tears
or wishes I could lift him
giving him the courtesy
of a decent burial.

Not smoke, but fog
low to the ground
whipped by a mighty wind
I ran.

Read more of Patricia Hawkenson’s poetry at Expressive Domain.

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