July 04, 2006

Independence Day


Some of the children stop crying
to reach out for falling sparks.
Fathers explain why it is that you see
the booms and whistles before you hear them,
and I can hear the light itself if I close my eyes,
ohhs and ahhs filling those darkened worlks
from the other side with fireworks.

Most of us stand to watch the sky,
thinking ourselves closer. Our heads all find
the same angle, as if we are grown to the hill,
living for one night on spark light an music.
The band leader sways and sweats and wonders
why his job has become so difficult;
if I stop for a moment I can hear
everyone else humming along with the Sousa too.
"Hey!" I shout, "Your band has as many instruments
as there are people on this hill!"
Trying to make him feel better. But he does ot
hear me. It is the finale; children are reaching
for pieces of sky.


Afterwards it feels strange to be separate, uprooted,
trapped in metal and an endless line while
red and white smear from tail to head lights
like a time-lapse photo someone took of the sky.
The stillness feels wrong. Dad wrenches
the steering wheel around and we are only ourselves again.
Lost. The roads twist away from us, embarrassed by their
lack of signs. Tracy and Mom are angry, want to go back
the way we came with the other cars, like following
footprints back to the house in a blizzard.

But this blindness is black, not white, and warm on the
Fourth of July -- Dad isn't turning around.
"Get out and find north, will you Shelley?"
I spin free from the car and look up, whistling
at the stars, half-expecting it to come out sparks.
Me, I don't mind being lost.
John Philip Sousa and I don't mind a bit.

(For poetry of a different sort,
check out the Declaration of Independence
and remember our forbearers, to whom we remain indebted.)


Stacy said...

Wow, I really liked this.

Shelley said...

Stacy, thanks so much! It's a pretty old piece; most of my writing from this period has not withstood the test of time. So glad that this one still has it goin' on, at least for the two of us! :-)

Professor Kim said...

It's lovely, Shelley. Children grabbing pieces of sky -- great imagery. The idea of you trying to make a human connection with the conductor in the midst of the commotion -- very provocative. Thanks for sharing your art.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I read this I want to shout to someone "Listen up, that's one of my Shelley's songs". Makes me happy.