1889 – 1918
I saw the town rise up
Like a single blade of grass after a spring rain.
I played a multitude of hop-scotch games
With my best friend Hannah on Penn Street.
And sipped a hundred ice cream sodas in the Mercantile at sunset.
My mother took me to Jacob’s Grocery every Monday
And it was I who picked the plump oranges
From the big rickety crate.
On Saturdays we worked the fields at Strong’s Ranch,
Harvesting the pampas in the walnut fields.
And on Halloween I was the girl in the moon-face costume for five straight years.
When Christmas brought its luminous lights to the town,
Mother dressed me in red with a bell on my bonnet.
And father sang the carols with a guitar and a tambourine.
I graduated from the big high school in 1907
And in celebration,
Rode my bicycle to Bassett
Still in my starched graduation petticoats.
He being five years younger than I,
Was the love of my brief stay on this earth.
But when he ventured to steal a kiss that day in Black Canyon,
I used my calloused hand to convey my stern disagreement.
But what wild regrets I’ve entertained since Jesse drowned that day.
In the wild currents by Pio Pico’s crumbling Adobe,
His body bobbing like a sea bird
In the punishing plume of that old deep river.
Beyond the muddy banks and the wild flowers,
Jesse Forbes left this life with a surprised frozen grin.
Why Jesse? Why?
You never knew the truth, my love.
You never really understood what I meant
When I said nothing.
I said No to you when I said nothing that day in Black Canyon,
But I really meant Yes.
The influenza incinerated my heart and soul
With a 106 temperature in the winter of 1918.
Twenty nine years I dare say
Is nothing in terms of eternal life!
I had so much more to do!
I had so much more to dream about!
I walked and talked on the streets of my town,
And on the funeral-dark avenues of my innocent days.
And I planned and I schemed
And all for nothing!.
Indeed, I felt the pulse of fleeting time
And the never-ending,
Ever-turning circle of endless days.
But now I rest here in Clark Cemetery… a virgin corpse
Flirting shamelessly with the bow-tie worms,
Still wild with regrets.
And forever haunted in reverse
By the same recurring memory
Of Jesse Forbes holding a rose.
Under the old oak tree in Black Canyon..