Summer Day

I have always been a wanderer
Over land and sea
Yet a moonbeam on the water
Casts a spell o’er me
A vision fair I see
Again I seem to be

Back home again in Indiana
And it seems that I can see
The gleaming candlelight
Still burning bright
Through the sycamores for me
The new-mown hay sends all its fragrance
Through the fields I used to roam
When I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash
How I long for my Indiana home

Fancy paints on memory’s canvas
Scenes that we hold dear
We recall them in days after
Clearly they appear
And often times I see
A scene that’s dear to me

A white bike appeared at the top of my street 6 weeks ago and has haunted my summer.  It arrived one Monday morning not long after a tragic hit and run bicycle death that occurred at that spot.  The ghost bike is both memorial to a man who died late one night while riding home and a warning to drivers watch for cyclists and share the road.  The bike rests against the street sign, and has gathered flowers, ribbons and notes as people pass by and want to leave a remembrance. I consider the bike and the incident that landed it there every day, multiple times a day as I drive to and from my house.  I never knew the man, but I did know his family, and I think of them as they must be spending this summer in sorrow. I wonder what that is like to spend the season of abundance and light, mourning the death of a loved one. The bike sweetly, sadly, tragically is his final story.

The place the bike rested is near some wildflowers.  It is now, at the peak of summer, July and August, that I become mesmerized by the flowers that crowd the sides of our roads: Queen Anne’s lace, cornflower, black-eyed Susan, purple clover, goldenrod, daisies, and the funny star shaped periwinkle flowers whose name I do not know.  In the Midwest, if you watch the side of the road in the hot summer months, white and purple and orange flowers fill up the available space. They are the brightest of hues, the prettiest of flowers, they are both plentiful and extremely inaccessible.  I am known to pull my car over to the side of the road, in a ditch to pick a handful.  I associate them with the hottest of days, and I long to pick them all, to love them, to bring them into my house.  When I do pull over and begin to clip roadside weeds, I imagine other drivers eyeing me, wondering what I am up to.  Who picks weeds?   I do love these flowers, and I bundle them up in my sweaty hand and carry them home to some water where I can appreciate them.

This summer I have traveled some.  Most recently to the west coast.  When I travel the first thing I notice is the flora.  How are the flowers different here? The greenery?  The roadside weeds? Who can’t marvel at the palm tree and the bougainvillea?  The flowers and trees with their long growing season are abundant and lush.  But I watched the roadsides of the Bay Area for a sign of cornflower and goldenrod, and could not discover anything that sparked my imagination as much as those midwestern weeds. No rose, no bougainvillea, no strange succulent was as lovely and abundant as Queen Anne’s Lace back in Indiana.  I couldn’t wait to get home and see my flowers, I was sure that they had bloomed and were waving in the thick hot summer sun, waiting for me to get home and pull over and appreciate them. I am home, I said to no one and all the discarded flowers the minute I landed. I am home.

I went for a walk yesterday.  For some reason, as I walk up the street in the oppressive humidity, sweat pouring off my face and back, the old song Back Home Again in Indiana, keeps rolling through my head.  I hum it a bit as the wind picks up the leaves and grasses.  I pick out some black-eyed Susan and daisies to cut.  I wilt in the sun, find a shady spot to rest.  I am on my way to the top of  my street on foot, to look at the bike and watch for a minute, soak up its story. I pause and pay my respects.  This white bike now wrapped in ribbon and flowers seems to shine in the sun.  I have never seen a brighter white.  Cars zoom past me.  It feels very public, very exposed. I wonder how long this memorial will stay.  I hope forever. I imagine all the scenarios that might take it away. Roadwork, theft, the property owner next to the sign might decide he’s tired of it.

The wildflowers, the roadside memorials, my steady walk up the road. I am sunshine and and sweat and home sweet home.  I lay my bouquet down on the ground near the bike while considering the crime and the hot summer night that brought a man and his bike to this spot.  How now, after all this, we consider it hallowed ground.  I silently wish this family a way through grief.  Peace, I think, just peace and I walk home.

Amy Cornell for The Poplar Grove Muse

My Boat



We learn and teach and as we go

each woman sings~ each woman’s hands

are water wings. From “Water Women” by All Renee Bozarth

I was pushed out of a very rocky and leaky boat twenty-eight years ago. I went against my will. I had only been in this one boat for years and I was sure I would never feel at home in a new boat. The problem was, I had never even touched the oars in the old boat. They were never offered and up to that point, I had not dared to take them on my own. I knew how to swim, so I thought maybe I would tread water until a lifesaver floated my way. It took a while for me to realize that I was the lifesaver that I could teach myself to walk on water

The more I treaded, the stronger I became, and I began to rise up out of the water. I spied a shore with a brand new boat bobbing tantalizingly at the water’s edge.

This is my boat, I said loud and clear to myself and to the whole world. The oars fit my hands perfectly. I painted my boat red, my new power color. Passengers in my new boat were by invitation only. No one stayed if they were toxic. I wasn’t the only one who could be pushed out of a boat.

My boat liked its new sheltering boathouse, but it also liked to travel. We’ve been on many journeys, many adventures, my boat and I.

Sometimes it springs a leak and I often surprise myself when I realize I have gathered just the right tools for the task at hand, and they are always ready.

Rebekah Spivey for the Poplar Grove Muse


Lost Girl

She is playful,
a mop of hair,
a puffy sleeved dress with a ribboned waist,
covering crinolines
and ruffled panties.
Mud is caked on the heels of her patent leathers.
She likes to remind me that she is still here,
wills me to let her out.
She doesn’t know what acceptable behavior is.
Certainly, a lady does not like the smell of worms after a spring rain
or long to play with the race track her brothers play with for hours on end.
She belonged with her always aproned mother
in the kitchen,
polishing the silver,
rolling out the dough,
tidying things up with her sisters.
The boys were allowed to do just about anything,
but not the girls.
I kept her away to avoid trouble,
to fit in,
until one day
I forgot about her.

Once in a while a memory drifted in;
the smell of salt water and Coppertone,
riding my bike on a leaf covered path,
or hearing my name whispered as I edged toward sleep.

And then, finally, it all came back,
in a flood of tears that would not stop.
She understood,
she had shed many tears herself
not for herself,
but for me
for the pieces I lost
and forgotten about.
She wanted to help me pull them in like a big fish dad would catch,
“turn the reel,
let it run a bit,
turn the reel, faster!”
Always a two-person job if the catch was big.

Sometimes the line would break,
water would get on her dress
water not from the fish, but from her eyes.
We cried a lot,
she hid a lot.
She could get very small,
it is hard to grow without oxygen.

I need her to grow in me again,
to take me to all the places she wanted to go,
the little cave on the side of the hill that smelled of dampness and dirt,
the creek with the dam that the boys down the street built.
(I was afraid of those boys.)
The secret place where you could see fireflies even in the autumn,
although I think she made that up.

I want her to grow so I can see what she looks like.
I picture her strong, and lean with a fierceness about her,
streaks of white and gray running haphazardly through her still curly hair
and the lines on her face bearing a story,
my story, my pain
mixed with great joy.

She has been here all along,
This not my story, it is our story.
I see her now,
She is standing here
holding a fishing rod,
here to help me pull in the big one,
once and for all.

Sherri Walker for The Poplar Grove Muse

On Spending the Day at Bloomington Hospital

Holy Hill



Efficiencies. So many
Noises. Good God.
Almighty doctors,
Specialists all,
This one for that and
That one for this and
they are all twelve years old
And they are all super cute,
Hip, snappy, right on time with
Charm to lose like a wealth of smile,
It won’t hurt to overflow a bucket
Of warmth on the individual suffering
an existential moment of
“I hope I wake up,” “I’m sorry for everything,” and “I wish I had moved to Brooklyn.” 

Cold hard stone passages, hallway arteries
carry husbands and wives of a certain age
To the kind of customary surgeries that result from
A life of purposeful personal care neglect
Mixed with genetic predisposition to whatever has slunk
About the system since long before Mom slept with Dad.

The bodies are chunky and broken,
Long beards and nose rings,
Tight jeans and gut spills,
Pale pink knit Mom tops and
Peony scattered polyester pedal pushers,
Reeking of smoke and
Looking a lot like — well, to be honest —
A helluva lot more than that’s
Been going on all these years.

It does add up.

There are vague looks of worry.
The aloneness of some feels like they are already ghosts.

Many are accompanied by armies of relatives,
Cousins, brothers, aunts, mamaw,
Support-troops in the rare case that their loved one
Comes under fire from an enemy that
looks oddly like life.

The family-care specialist
Makes sure to have at least
one of their phone numbers.

They fill the consulting room awaiting
arrival of their very own hip, snappy twelve year old
Who will provide a confident, detailed explanation of
Is he going to make it or isn’t he?

Questions in broken farmer English
Are softly asked. 

Nervous laughter of relief wafts from the room.
All those who wait, twitching within earshot
Of the troops in the nearby bunker, feel it and think
this will be a good day after all.
Perhaps we will survive the battle
after all.

Thup thup thups among the
Beep beep beeps and the
Quavering and shouted, “somebody help me”s.

Lifeline is here, aiming, afloat, and aiming again.
We hold our breath as the mind, watching, wanders
to car wrecks and handyman accidents,
Stupid Dad tricks and incidents of child abuse.

The Lord said, Go in peace and be freed from your suffering,
Pray the agnostics in the room watching. 

The tonnage of wasp alights
upon an oddly bright, wide expanse of cement as
Attention is torn by a sensory assault charging the room:

Somebody pooped.
A lot.
In the wrong place.
At the wrong time.
Holy crap.
I think I’m gonna die. 

Oh the indignity of an ill-timed bodily function.
There but for the Grace of God, as they say.

The red-shirts scramble.
Poor thing.
She’s all alone and so frightened.
How can all these children help her, she manages to wonder,
via the few very small spaces still available for hysterical thought in her plaque pocked brain.

Worry and fear.
Sadness and the urge to get the hell out of here,
As if whatever is happening to everyone
in the freezing identical rooms that emit
bups and yeeps and yelps and sobs
Is catching. 

Paperwork arrives.
Wheelchair arrives.
Car arrives. 

The bumpy stop-stop ride
to the East side and out of town
via 2nd Street commences.

We depart the strangers writhing in rooms, in pain, in apprehension.

There is a place in Wisconsin called Holy Hill.
The long drive up the road to the church passes
Fields and a diner.

The church is brick, stoic, a curiosity
Lording over empty land.
The sanctuary is cold hard stone. 

On the right wall as one faces the altar
is a bar stuffed with wheelchairs, crutches.
Post-it notes from the healed cover the walls.

Thank you Lord Jesus!

Curiosity sated, the car that traveled up
Now travels down and 


And rolls directly into the parking lot of the diner.
Waiting for a tow, a conversation ensues with 
teenagers pouring iced tea behind the cold, hard counter.

What do you do for fun around here?

“Well, there’s a movie theater up the road”, she said.

“When I was in high school”, he blurted with odd urgency
to the unusual stranger stuck on a stool,
“my Dad asked me to get up early to help him with the farm,
because he was going to lose it to the bank.
But I didn’t. And he lost the farm.
So now I just read my Bible…but
I’ve always wanted to live in Brooklyn!”

Patricia Krahnke, for Poplar Grove Muse