Scenes out of Childhood Breathe-in experience, breathe-out poetry --Muriel Rukeyser The day the heat came I could see it cut from morning into the fields, withering the cotton. I was ten. I walked down the road by the widder’s place, knew from her wail the heat in her snakebite, bandages fouled from an old war’s blood; went through the worn-out pasture choked with onion grass; heard the sweet lowing of mmmboss by the tarpaper shack; knew the harsh carols of grasshoppers among tiny blueflowers against the dead hay; saw the heat in Baby’s glaze-eyed vomiting; and in Bea Mama’s baby with the three-inch navel, making her sickly, they said; went down the blacktop by the Colonel’s house where I saw his mad daughter, run out and howl across the fields of red-baked clay in some determination of despair. At home that afternoon I peeked into the solarium, cool, and with what voices! the sweet tinkle of laughter, the garden dresses, the wide-brimmed hats. I saw the president of the garden club call the meeting to order; heard the ladies praising the soon-coming wild orange persimmon within a brown wood, and the honeysuckle, its little trumpets of amaranthine flower that would blare beauty throughout a good God’s imagined fields. I still see them, those ladies, under the big-bladed slow-moving fan, iced in tea.
Barbara Lightner grew up in rural Tennessee among sharecroppers, aristocrats, and hardscrabble farmers. She now lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She received a BA in English Literature from Smith College and a PhD from UW-Madison. She taught creative writing at UW-Madison and Skagit Valley College. She has been published in The Back Porch Review, Rabbit, Verse Wisconsin, Poesia, OccuPoetry and elsewhere.