Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November Poetry Challenge: 16/30: Bell Range

Here's poem #16 of 30 in my November poetry challenge. As I was working today, something made me remember burrowing in piles of leaves as a kid. When I got home to the paper tonight this one came out...

Bell Range

When I was a grade school kid
we had what was probably a typical
suburban home, tucked away on a culdesac.
But oh, that place was magical!
Or maybe it was just that I was learning
to explore, a girl let loose for the first time
to run where I pleased--as long
as I was within Bell Range.
See, Grandma had been a one room school house
teacher, and Mom had her recess bell.
As long as I could still hear her ring the bell
to call me in from my adventures
I was home free.

There was a mysterious sunken circle
in the side yard. My parents
thought it was where the previous owners
had removed a pool.
But I knew it was a grand amphitheater
fit for staging all sorts of shows,
ringed with tiger lilies for giving
orange pollen nose make-up.
And in the fall it turned into an enchanted
labyrinth, laid out with crunching piles
of multicolored leaves.
I'd burrow through the walls
and come out covered
in bits of autumn.

The culdesac pavement in front of the house
was a giant canvas for chalk masterpieces.
And if you were careful to avoid pebbles
(and the occasional car coming home from work)
it was an awesome skating rink.
On long summer days we'd spend hours,
chalk in hand, laying out swooping road ways
and rectangle shops and schools and homes,
creating our own private city.
And then we'd skate our streets
in elaborate games,
impatient smudges altering
the land scape as needed
as our shared story unfolded.

And behind the house
there was a vast wilderness, hiding
lost cities and magical doorways.
If you were a careful archaeologist
you could dig through the dirt piles
and find bottle-cap treasures,
and Important Clues
to pressing neighborhood mysteries.
The grown ups thought
it was just an empty lot, and somebody
built a house in our space.
So we put toys down the cinder block
foundation, in our own personal
time capsule
to the future.

The future.
Now that I'm in that future,
something is
When I was a kid, that small slice
of quiet neighborhood
held passageways to all the possibilities
the world could hold.
Now? My limits may have broadened,
but my vision...
Today I think I'm only seeing
a house. A street. A missing pool.
And a vacant lot.

I need...I need to coax that
grade school girl I was
back in from where she's wandering.
I need her limitless vision
and exuberant imagination.
I want to play, on a grand scale.
Somehow, over the years,
I've become an...adult.
Where is the fun in that?

But how? How can I call her home?

I know.
I've still got Grandma's recess bell
safely tucked away.
It's a little dusty,
but it should do the trick.
All I have to do is step outside
into a breezy, sun filled afternoon
and let the clapper clang
long and very very loud.
And in a little bit
she'll come dancing along,
breathless and bubbling,
back to where she belongs.

Yes. In fact, looking back
I think my inner child
has always been
just within
Bell Range.

Melissa McCollum

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