Later, a small, startled cricket leaped from a low cupboard I had opened in the kitchen. It hopped this way and that a few times, then found a dim refuge under the refrigerator. I have to be careful going out there, lest I step on it in the dark, should it emerge from its undoubtedly dusty hiding place. If the cat does not find it, and it survives the winter, I expect that it will provide me with songs of gratitude, come spring.
Shifting a stack of books about, I came across one from which I've posted verse before. There's one in particular that I like, but I can't remember if it's one of those I've posted. Even if it is, it's worth repeating.
by Donald Petersen
Just where my long road started out, it ends.
I stand alone and see my childhood town
Calling its kids and saying goodnight to friends.
And now the tasseled window shades draw down.
Old men and women, slumped in easy chairs,
Fold up their papers, yawn, and cease to talk.
I know that only a tireless streetlamp cares
Where I, a ghost with fisted pockets, walk.
Shadow and I, we play a little game
Of hide-and-seek, as we have always done.
Ten years ago I had a boys nickname,
Voiced in this street and known by everyone.
That name, those years, companions that I had --
Channing the fiddler and the girls next door,
That roughneck gang that drove my father mad,
Trampling his flowers in their relentless war --
Where are they now, so dear and out of date?
Old men and women yawn but do not stir
The burned-out embers, and the hour is late.
Someone is calling but I can't see her.
"Sneakthief!" she cries. "You've waited here too long,
Thinking of them, beside an old streetlamp.
Shadow will fall on you, and he will throng
Your reckless head and beat you for a tramp.
"And when you go back home -- to your own home --
No one will know you. Peering through a crack,
Familiar eyes will say 'Too bad, you've come,'
Familiar lips will mutter 'Don't come back.'"
Home is a place of resurrections. Fears
I ran away from, sorrows that I fled,
Come back to haunt me now from other years.
Two neighbors I remember best are dead.
There was a mean and bitter-hearted man
Who murdered songbirds in his orchard plot
And dropped their bodies in a garbage can.
In memory of the songbirds that he shot
My fancy likes to languish and delay
Beside the lilacs where we used to meet,
Knickered, distracted from our usual play
To plan our vengeance. Down the quiet street,
Elm shadowed, cool, my fancy likes to browse
Where Mr. Slemmons sang his tenor part
On Sundays in his big green-gabled house
With all his kin, till stricken in the heart
He lost life's tune before the tune went sour.
Now dead ten years, his operatic voice
Seems mingled with the songbirds'. Hour on hour
I hear them singing as the spectral boys
Steal from the orchard with unblemished pears,
Ambrosial apples, sacrificial plums.
They speak in breathless tones, yet no one cares.
No keeper of the orchard ever comes
To kill the songbirds. On the highest limb
A ghostly blue jay wrangles with a leaf,
But no one hears the cry that bursts from him
Except myself. He cries, "Sneakthief, sneakthief!"