No 26 - 2005
This is my hometown.
The ice just went
out of the lake,
so it’s spring.
When I visit
I always walk the
length of main street to remind myself.
You know, the old stroll down memory lane.
The house there is where Patty Meyers used
to live. She told me where babies come from.
Your mother’s belly button.
Her big brother, an irrefutable source, told her.
And we told all our friends the answer to the
Heres the Mosers’ house. I bit their kid
when he wouldn’t give me his apple.
He went inside and bit his sister Marian.
I don’t know who she bit.
This is the Catholic Church and the house
where the priest lived. Latin and incense
were all we knew about the Catholics
except that their way to heaven wasn't ours.
No ecumenism in those days.
Across the street is the tallest building in town, the grade
school. It was made of brick in 1903 and they
had a terrible time knocking it down
when they wanted a new school. The
walls were three bricks thick. Inside, it
always smelled of sweeping compound that
Mr. Lerdall, the janitor, used on all the old
My dad went to this school, too, and we had the same
second grade teacher, Miss Douglas. She
hit your hands with a ruler if you were bad.
I worked at being very good. I wonder
if she ever hit my dad.
Next to the grade school is the high school. I was nervous the
first day I moved from one building to the other. A girl
I knew, who was two years older, gave me what she
thought was kindly advice. She said I should take shorter
steps if I wanted to look more “lady-like’.
I tried to take her advice, but it felt like having
bound feet, so I went through the entire four years
loping along, and no one else seemed to notice.
You have to be careful here. This is where the sidewalk is broken
and uneven. I fell more than once roller-skating,
so I know. This is where my friend and I put our initials
in the wet cement. MH and GM. We were going to print
“Friends Forever”, but a grownup approached, so we
stopped immortalizing ourselves.
Here’s the English lit. teacher’s house.
She wore the same dress every day from
September to Christmas, when she got a new one to
alternate. We studied “A Tale of Two Cities” for that
entire semester, too. Both dress and Dickens are
This is the Company Store where my Aunt Caroline and Uncle Chris
worked. Whenever a customer came in, the man who
worked with my uncle hurried to the restroom. My uncle
had to wait on everyone.
My mother bought our groceries at the Company Store. She phoned
in the order and the delivery boy brought it to the house
in a little truck. This saved her from going out when it
was cold. And it gets very cold here. Cold as a “dead
witch’s tit”, as they say. We wouldn’t say that because of
the questionable word. We learned in Sunday School not
to say Gosh or Darn because they are just substitutes
for the real swear words. I think we heard about the
F-word by the time we hit puberty, but even my uncles,
who swore a lot, never said that one.
This is the drug store where we bought ice cream. The first time
I asked for a cone, the girl said, “You want vanilla?”
I said, “No, I want white.” I knew that vanilla in
my mother’s kitchen was brown and I wanted white.
Everyone laughed, but I didn’t think it was funny.
Here’s my favorite place in the whole town, the Zim Zim Theatre.
I loved and adored the Zim Zim and almost every movie
they showed, except Westerns. Most people would guess
that my favorite movie star was Shirley Temple, but they’d
be wrong. Ginger and Fred are my all-time and forever
choice. It cost a dime to go to a movie and with a
nickel’s worth of penny candy, I could eat through the
entire show, including the previews and the short
We came downtown with our mothers on Saturday night, the only
night when the stores were open.
The country folks came to town, too.
They sat in their cars gawking. We called them
hicks. We lived in town, after all, and were
obviously more sophisticated.
This is one of the taverns. Most small towns in this part of the
the world have as many taverns as churches, but our town
had one more church. All of the taverns were owned by
Italians, also the bowling alley. They lived on the south
end of town and ate garlic. I had a big crush in grade
school on one of the tavern owner's kids, but I knew it
couldn’t go anywhere. Italians were off-limits to
Norwegians then and we were “goodnorwegians”, as my
grandmother said. I wasn’t even full-blooded, since my dad
was a Dane, but grandma overlooked this. She knew the
Norwegian side would prevail. And all of her thirty-one
grandchildren knew that being Norwegian was the best that
you could be.
And here’s the end of main street. This is the Norwegian Lutheran
Church that we went to. Next door is the Swedish Lutheran
Church. It’s bigger and made of brick. My mother said it
was the way the Swedes had of showing off all their money.
It was clear that Norwegians (once again superior) were
more modest and therefore that much closer to heaven.
Much that I learned in my hometown had to be altered over time.
But one thing I haven’t mentioned remained unchanged.
From one end to the other, main street is one mile long.
Time has imposed its weight on me, but distance
I will know forever.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The