Redwing Park

Laura Lee Washburn

was the scene of certain childhood memories,
those days we crawled into concrete pipes
because we couldn’t, like our cousins, make the top.
The pipes, painted in primary colors, burned
like a silver metal slide our bare and unshaved legs.
Inside the pipes were soft sand and shade, respite
and consolation, whatever little girls alone whispered.
A few hundred yards away the uncle would throw a cursing fit
on the softball field and the game would fall apart.
The first skateboard, egg toss, Grandma with the lemon twist toy
on her ankle, pine sap thick on unclimbable trees,
everything too tall, everything out of our league.

We never meet there anymore, those of us, still alive,
and when I go back to look, wedding photographers
are snapping photos on the orange bridge in the Japanese garden
that never was before
where I heard someone held a memorial or celebration two years ago
for the doctor who always told me “Laura Lee,”
his ‘l’s sliding into ‘w’s, “I remember when
I pulled you from your mother.”  The concrete pipes,
of course are gone, the sand covered with softer wood chips;
plastic and logs make the new playground.
Mourn with me now for the difficult cement or concrete pipes,
for mothers with headscarves at picnic tables,
for cousins now divorced and moved to Florida,
for my aunt’s rheumatoid hands, for the Japanese
who somehow came anyway after the war,
for the canvas windbreaker, the tall straight trees,
pine needles layered in years, and the azaleas taller
even now than any of us, that bloom in three colors
as though only each new spring ever matters.

Laura Lee Washburn, Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University, is the author of This Good Warm Place (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Cavalier Literary Couture, Carolina Quarterly, 9th Letter, The Sun, Harbor Review, and Valparaiso Review. She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky and is one of the founders and the Co-President of the Board of SEK Women Helping Women.

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