Dioramas -for Carolee
I was the Matisse of dioramas
in elementary school, artist of
the shoebox. Materials were
simple: construction paper,
glue, tape, crayons, but with
these few items, I could recreate
Columbus’s deck, Colonial
Long Island, my own backyard.
I can still anticipate difficult
folds in the stiff paper, how to
compensate for faded spaces
once was part of
a bulletin board (another
medium I excelled in),
how much tape, how little glue
to avoid oozing. I could still
figure out where to put tabs,
if called upon, where to tape
straws so that a figure stands
tall in the box, stars suspended from
strings, windows cut in cardboard,
the whole show curtained by
the box’s lid, waiting for its cue
in class to reveal the scene,
Emmy and the Fireworks
Wreathed in blue neon, Roman crown of glow worm goo,
her father's hippie fists aren't enough to
hold back the rattle of fireworks,
O queen of the blanket, alone in displeasure.
I divert his attention when I can, hand in hand,
leaving her space to chant her fears,
another necklace, another necklace
to braid with the one I bought her,
as I have done, taking full advantage of
grown-up privilege to have more, do more,
damning the wee ones by omission.
Her father reassures her with his free hand,
patting her brown hair, thick, beautiful mass,
dark cave, uncombed, unknown.
I thrive on the light show, dodge around
her small agonies to ponder the smiling swarm
of stars above our heads, the don't worry faces,
thunderous garden above the lake.
I am here in the universe of my beloved,
children, strangers; sandwiches and pudding
from the cooler, water to wash it down.
I only remember later, back in the car, after the stroll back,
her twin with the devil grin at my calm hand,
that she is afraid of the noise, this new life.
She doesn't want to talk about divorce.
I am no master. Like her father,
I make it up as I go along.
Fireworks I can live with.
It is the silence at 3 a.m., the dark as black
as three-hundred miles that makes me crave
a plastic tube of blue to show the way,
the boom of the fireworks defining the space
between us by light, by the echo of
Snake jaws blooming to posies,
stacks pulled snug by hay string of stars,
standard golden chrysanthemum.
After the fireworks, all is forgiven.
I perch on my balcony
like an Argentine goddess,
Heineken scepter, citronella sacrifice,
and think of other Fourths,
when my men were boys
and the kids & I sat
watching from the car
(other kids I mean; we were
all short then), away
from the rain. The fathers
had to blow; it was the day.
Fireworks easily gotten
from down South or the
guy next door
filled the flat sky of that
fishy island, every direction,
like there were no laws,
like the Year of the Tiger
(clutching the Plum of Life
in his graceful paws).
I don't if they got
the Roman candle to
flame in the downpour.
I remember Skip, my father's
friend of many moons,
appearing from the dark yard
with a bandage tied round his head
like that revolutionary flutist,
injured in the line of duty or
stumbling in the sodden holiday.
Tonight with a sky of
wobbling tapers scorching the mist,
satellites melting, twinkling
shower falls, I remember the
boy that Skip has lost, my age,
to the black yard that we all
stumble on, after the
brightness of the night.
Surrounded by combustion for
purposes of good, I think of the
shell-shocked, cowering in a
trench of their own device,
remembering their own boyhoods,
perched and charred on a
foreign pyre, shivering at
this Chinese thunder, lollipop
dumb show of sound.
Long Islander by birth, Cheryl A. Rice has called New York’s Hudson Valley home for over 35 years. She is founder/host of the now defunct Sylvia Plath Bake-Off, likely the world’s first combination open mic/baked goods competition. Her poetry blog, Flying Monkey Productions, is at http://flyingmonkeyprods.