My cousin and I used to walk to school instead of taking the bus.
It was our small rebellion against something.
Mostly, we did it only when the weather was good.
But not always. We walked in snow, too.
We were big boys in junior high, so, on the cusp of manhood,
we asserted ourselves, eschewing the bus, doing what we wanted.
We walked to school.
On the way there in the morning and then on the way back in the afternoons,
we talked about girls and God and growing up.
The three great mysteries of our lives.
We complained about our parents, our teachers, our boredoms.
We kicked rocks or cans, whatever was there in our path.
Sometimes, we stopped at the little store near his house and got
gum, soda, or some other treat. We’d egg on the owner to
gross us out by sucking the raw innards out the end of an egg.
He’d do it, too, always happy to entertain the kids,
slopping the yellow egg innards around in his open and toothless mouth.
Sometimes he sold us cigarettes we said were for our parents.
He knew our parents didn’t smoke. Neither did we but
we tried. Menthol was best. We lit up in Baker Park, hiding
but not really hidden behind some big rocks that are no longer there.
Turning green, we wondered what the attraction was.
Then, after enough tries, we knew.
Some years ago on a visit to my hometown, I strode alone
from the house I grew up in, across the park to where my
cousin lived, and then downtown where the old junior high used to be.
What once seemed a great distance wasn’t at all.
I missed having my cousin with me, and wanted to tell him what
it was like to walk alone, now, as an adult, still mystified by growing up,
girls, and God. Dying younger, he had walked on beyond me, ahead of me,
solving the greatest of those three mysteries. I miss him.
* It’s PoMo! To learn about PoMo (POetry MOnday), click here. As I grow older, more and more people in my life fall out of it, succumbing to death. Some, while always a painful loss, are not totally surprising. Age always yields to death. But when someone is younger and suddenly no more, that’s a different experience. So it was with my cousin Allen. And others since. How about you? Who have you lost “too early” that you miss? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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