by Gil Hoy

In Squirrel Hill, Pennsylvania,
while in the third grade, I often trekked to
my best friend’s home up the street,
a backpack of books strapped
to my small growing back.

We read through pages and pages then,
in a quiet little study in a remote corner on
the third floor of his sturdy red brick house.

When it was winter, and the light got dark early,
the glow from flickering red and orange fireplace
flames illuminated the library’s russet wood walls,
like a solemn Friends meeting house.

My friend’s mother oftentimes would set out whole
white milk and chocolate chip cookies for us
to eat. They looked like planets of dirt
and black rocks circling two white stars.

She was always so kind and so warm.
Planet earth is a sky blue marble with white
swirls from the cratered sterile rock
of the moon, so pretty and elegant.

The better the book, the more you didn’t want
it to end. You start with chapter one. If there
were twenty, by the time you got to ten or so,
you were tormented by the prospect of finishing.

And the pages went by so fast then, like a speeding bus
you run after but miss, and you knew that
the end was coming, like the last bite
of a favorite meal.

It came to me on one of those unspeaking afternoons
that my death was much the same as my book, and that I
was on chapter four. That vision jerked my head into pieces,
like a jigsaw puzzle falling off of a dining room table.
But I wasn’t worried because there was still
such a long way to go.

Today, I am almost sixty. My angst is different now. I listen
to a grayer thoughtful black President talk about protecting
the American homeland, and roguish political candidates who
say what they think you want to hear because it’s politically
expedient, rather than do the country’s business.

You grow weary of hearing grown men lie, and you come
to doubt our institutions and the law—no polish
can remove such a steadfast stain.

I wonder now if the world can survive its woes, and whether
the grandchildren of my grandchildren will even get here.
Perhaps a nuclear holocaust with just too many missiles
and countries for the world ever to recover, or a colorful
solar storm, much more destructive than the one in 1859.

Maybe global warming overflowing rising seas, disobedient armies
of self-preserving computers, or tremendous runaway asteroids exploding
oceans—-like ruinous bombs raining down on rubbled villages of the weak.
I worry that the world is like my old third grade book, and I have
no idea what chapter the world may be on.

What does it mean that the Milky Way is just one of billions of galaxies?
What immortal blacksmith or powerful imagination created infinite space?
Is the universe dying? Can we read its obituary in the stars? Given the big
bang, like an explosion of planet seeds from the head of a ruderal species,
futures of finite and infinite duration are both possible depending
upon physical properties and the expansion rate.

Some scientists say that the universe is flat, like Homer’s disc cosmography,
and will continue expanding forever, depending on its shape and the role
dark energy plays as the universe grows older.

Otherwise, the big rip tears the earth away, like a dimpled spider on a white
heal-all carrying away a rigid satin moth like a child’s plaything, a lion’s
fearsome symmetry while locked in a death spiral with a spent zebra,
or a chirping little bird biting an angleworm into halves. The ephemeral
perfection of goldilocks planet has always been that it is not too hot
and not too cold, with just the right amount of water.

When I got to my friend’s home on that rainy dark afternoon, I learned
that his mother had died that morning. The bleak house was so cold,
wet and dark. I didn’t know what to do. But I knew there was
no time to waste.

Had she played a part in the attack on her heart that had stopped it
from beating at such an early age? How many oceans and mountains
had she never seen and in what directions?

Why she left, and where she went, is a mystery even now.
Life’s like that. And what had I to do with being at her red
brick house, at that time and on that day? I had no answers.
For I never really knew much about life or death then,
and was just too young to see what I couldn’t see.

Outside, in Squirrel Hill, Pennsylvania, it was still raining,
just three days before my ninth birthday. So I filled up
my empty backpack with books, said goodbye to my
friend, and started the long trudge back home.
For I knew there was no time to waste.


Category: Poetry, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing