In the summer
When it got hot and sticky
And playing outdoors was no longer fun
We had the cellar,
Dank and cool,
Perfect anodyne until it was time
To go to the pool.
We all had cellars, I recall,
But John’s mom was a beautician
Most of his cellar was done up and given over
To old ladies getting their hair re-blued.
Tom’s mom was nice but very neat,
And besides, he didn’t have much stuff.
Bruce….nah…..when at Bruce’s
We preferred to argue
Over baseball cards and Batman
On his big back porch, screened in, shady,
With blue and dark red flagstones
In the concrete floor...
So we always went to my place
Where mom was a benign despot
Who could be counted on for snacks
And didn’t care, as long as we didn’t fight,
It wasn’t much,
Bare concrete floor; One side
Dad’s “workshop” furnace,
Freezer and washing machine,
Open ceiling, floor joists,
Water and heating pipes around the perimeter
Asbestos. Modern parents would be appalled.
The rest was mine,
At least until mom had enough of the mess
And said “Pick it up, OR ELSE”
Later it would become her craft shop
Cries of “Spray paint it Gold!!”
Echoing in clouds of hydrocarbon
And cigarette smoke.
The absence of an explosion
Was one of the great mysteries
Of the western world.
But by then I was long gone.
The cellar floor was the base
Of my Lionel empire,
Inside of which
Battalions of plastic soldiers
Won World War II
Over and all over again.
This was the ‘50’s, remember;
The “Big One” had just been won,
And Viet Nam not even a nightmare, yet.
Pint-sized tacticians and generals,
Never enough tanks or artillery.
Fifty cents bought a bunch
Of plastic soldiers,
Or one tank or cannon.
“Too expensive” was the verdict.
How many generals
Have their defense budgets
Controlled by their parents?
We made our own “explosions”
Sounds of gunfire, the din of war,
Officer’s orders-creative sound effects.
Nobody ever won, or lost
Nobody wanted to be the Axis.
Nobody killed, nobody wounded.
Bare legs on cool cement
In contrast to the fiery sun outside
We had a lot of fun
And cookies halfway through.
Why can’t all wars be like that?
-August 5, 2010