Friday, November 18, 2005

The Ice King

That year, like others when
sleet found our obscure
southern town, limbs cracked
like old bones and birds skied
down iced slopes of sagged
telephone lines. Huge bags
of rock salt were dug from
their cobwebbed hiding places
by cold fingers and spread carefully
across steep steps and walkways.

Only bald Mr. Peterson, the
transplanted Yankee from Boston,
with chains for his tires, dared
that treacherous mile long ride into
town in search of a morning paper.

Mrs. Smith's monkey, Harold, got
loose late morning. He rushed between
houses, terrorizing both rabbit and
possom. At noon, he climbed the First
Presbyterian Church steeple, ringing
its bell incessantly, in claim of his
throne as King of this strange iced-over jungle.

School closed, we played cards, ate
red-eye ham, warmed hands
over fireplaces and stoves, pleased
to be freed from lectures of other
cold wars and from plump knees bruised
by kneeling too long beside desks,
prepared, lest the bombs come flying tomorrow.

By morning, we slogged through dank
puddles under still bomb-free skies,
books clasped to wool chests, unaware
of dogs howling and cats meowing
about yesterday's clear, silent miracle.


Michael Parker said...

Another wonderful poem. I love the allusion to the nuclear winter. I still remember the drills in first and second grade.

Pris said...

Hi Michael
Thanks. Yes, I imagine the youth of today can't imagine those old drills.

Geoff Sanderson said...

Great roller-coaster of a poem, Pris; what a pity you never saw the monkey climb the church steeple!

Pris said...

Oh I wish. I DID see a monkey climb a boat mast and scream on my six month boat trip. A couple with their monkey traveled in an old Chinese junk and, at night, chained him to the deck, but with leeway to explore every corner. His screams terrified my cat, Monster, traveling on my boat.