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Poetic Asides Prompt #268

Just think, If you’ve been religiously following Robert Brewer’s blog since inception, you’d have written 268 weekly poems by now.

This week’s prompt contained multiple words. We only needed to use one of them.

toast
pop
right
paper
howl
little

Toast and pop brought me immediately to my grandmother’s little house on E. Front St. in Wauzeka Wisconsin. I have not been in it since maybe I was about eleven or twelve years old, 1972 or 1973. My brain cells from that era are AWOL. It wasn’t anything special. It was small and cramped, and its bathroom was always in shambles, but it had a yard with a chestnut tree in back and a line of climbable maples in the front. It had a large propane tank we could climb on and a garage we could get in trouble in. The backyard was annually flooded by the Kickapoo river which we were not allowed near. For good reason too. It was brown and deep and if you fell in, they likely wouldn’t find you until New Orleans. Pft! The black trains ran by at night, and our only other pastimes were watching TV and playing cards. The Rockford Files, the lowly Milwaukee Brewers, the state news, cribbage, Euchre, Crazy Eights, and later Bridge were rituals. Cousin Mike — Grandma raised my cousins — might play his record collection of Dylan, CCR, Jethro Tull or one of his innumerable more local records such as Mason Proffit’s “Come And Gone.”

Coke and Pepsi were staples, along with popcorn, chips, and the new Tang. One of my younger brothers called Coke Coca Cola pop and the other called Pepsi Pessi-Cola pop. We celebrated the treats like any good 70’s family and turned these names into car-chants and we drove down highways 14 and 133 from Madison for the weekend. Is it any wonder I became diabetic a few years later? Don’t even bother with your retort that sugar doesn’t cause diabetes. I am not sold on that defense.

Card playing was pushed as safe, family entertainment — which it is — and while smoking and alcohol were not front and center, they were not exactly hidden. They tended to come out later at night when kids were sleeping, and only when company were present, which they always seemed to be. The 70’s homes were much more social than today’s. Grandma was the school librarian and English teacher. Dad taught the Hornets music for a few years until moving on like most teachers did then. A couple of years ago I stopped to chat with an older tourist at the Saint John City Market who wore a Wisconsin shirt. Turns out he was a music teacher from Praire du Chien, a few miles away and knew him. I whipped out the cell phone and they chatted a bit before he headed back to his cruise ship. Small world, 2200 miles away.

Grandma’s house also had bats. She hated the little demons with a passion. Always tried to scare us with her story of swatting 300 of them one night with her broom. One would squeak into her kitchen through a little hole and just as its legs waddled through, *whap*, she would let it have it. 300 little black demons piled up on her kitchen floor in a Wauzeka legend. We three boys and cousins Mike and Danny would stand out at dusk with busted tennis racquets, splintered baseball bats, and rolled up Mad Magazines and try to bash the little buggers as they orbited the house. Then we’d wail on each other until the referees jumped in, bathed us, and send us to he kitchen for card playing lessons — they taught us how to play, and we thought we were teaching them our own wisdom. Eventually family friends, fellow teachers, sweaty old farmers, and perhaps a local farm laborer dad had befriended, would trundle in with their beer, chips, and maybe a bottle of whisky which would be hidden until we disappeared to bed. The kitchen would soon fill with bodies, stories, and laughter. As young heads nodded and chairs became scarce, off we’d go to our beds upstairs.


Grandma’s house means bats
The little black screechers invade every summer evening
And we little ones howled all the way to bed
Until we learned how to play cards
Until we showed we could win at crazy eights or dirty clubs
We had to go to bed before the serious fun started
A kitchen full of grown-ups eating popcorn and drinking
Coca-Cola pop, Old Milwaukee, or that other stuff they wouldn’t
Bring out until we finally went to sleep
And even when we snuck down to peek
We were too young to read its dark, mysterious label
On that shiny, large clear bottle
We were pretty sure we saw its cousins lying shattered in a ditch

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