Under The Willow

Mom said OUT and out we went

the screen door adding emphasis

as we scurried onto the porch with

our blanket, book, apples and two

worn decks of cards.

It was hotter in the house than it was

outside even with windows wide, the

fans turning June air like cream in a

butter churn and the babies were

waking hungry.

Mom didn’t need us underfoot so we

took to the feet of the weeping willow

to make our camp in the cool beneath

tendrilled boughs in their dappled

puddles of shade.

She could read and I listened curled

close lest any word roll away in the

grass but when the story outpaced my

interest in the pictures, she’d put

the book aside

and say, “time for apples,” which did

not mean apples only but that the bright

crunch was accompanied by the slap

of cards as she practiced the impossible

art of shuffling.

War was the game and with two decks

combined it was hours before we were

bored, the cards slick with our sweat, the

spokes on the bicycle imprint trimmed

with apple stains.

Finding a breeze came next each day,

and she always went first to show me how

a hand went here, and a foot there until we

found air at the top that made our tree

bend and shimmy.

This was how we played together, her a

little older and more practiced, always

teaching me to reach up like she did,

and I was the perfect playmate ever

willing to learn,

until the day came when we sought a

zephyr and she kept climbing hand over

hand into heights beyond my courage

and she passed the place of turning back

so I was left

alone on the ground with my apple core

and words I couldn’t read wondering how

she could grow up and leave me like this,

under the willow on a blanket with

two decks of cards.

© Dana Hughes 3.11.17

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