We old folk talk a lot of the hereafter: we walk into a room and say, “what are we here after?” Buff Whitman-Bradley tries to get back to a favorite childhood memory, and then another!
I am hiking a muddy trail
In the wooded hills
On a brilliant spring morning
After many days of rain.
Purple and ivory irises,
Blue and white forget-me-nots,
And vivid yellow California buttercups
In the long, bright green trailside grasses.
The cool, wet air fills my lungs
And quickens my spirit
As I huff uphill
Letting my thoughts loose
Among oaks, madrones,
And I suddenly realize
That I cannot remember the name
Of Hopalong Cassidy’s horse.
Roy Rogers and Trigger,
Dale Evans and Buttermilk
Spring instantly to mind,
As do the Lone Ranger and Silver,
Tonto and Scout,
But the name of Hoppy’s horse,
A magnificent white steed,
Is stuck in some neural cranny inside my head.
Perhaps it will wriggle itself loose,
I advise myself,
If I shift my attention to something else —
Glittering ribbons of sunlight
Streaming down through the treetops,
Irascible scrub jays
Complaining on the fly,
Banana slugs poking along through the mud –
But I cannot for long not think
About Hopalong Cassidy’s horse.
I remember Rocinante, I remember Flicka and Black Beauty,
I even remember Bucephalus for God’s sake,
Yet I have forgotten the name
Of my childhood hero’s noble stallion.
I had a Hopalong Cassidy cup and plate
When I was a boy
With a picture of the man and his mount
Painted on each
And inscribed with the words
From your pal, Hoppy.
How I loved using my Hopalong Cassidy dinnerware
Every night at supper,
Watching the picture on the plate
Emerge from under a heap of mashed potatoes
Or a serving of . . .
Wait! I’ve got it! Topper!
The horse’s name was Topper!
Oh, I am a happy man now,
Relieved that the memory was not gone forever,
That the name has returned to me,
That my powers of recollection are still intact,
And I fairly float along the trail beside the creek
At the bottom of the hill,
Where small pines are decorated
With light green brushes of new growth
On the tips of their skinny branches,
Where towhees and juncos and sparrows
Hunting and pecking for food
Flit away into the trees as I approach,
Where the waters babble and tumble
Over stones and boulders
As they hurry toward the bay
And the great sea beyond,
And I would pronounce this a perfect day
If I could just recall
The name of the horse of the Cisco Kid.
It takes courage to give up an early memory in exchange for a present reality that might not be so pleasant. But the poet does it here with great courage and humor.
In a shoe box on the closet floor
Among decades of family snap shots
There is a photograph more than seventy years old
Of me and my first tricycle,
A wondrous vehicle I rode at breakneck velocity
All over the sidewalks and alleyways
Of the ramshackle little community of Carter Lake,
On the banks of an oxbow lake left behind
When the Missouri River decided to change course
And leave a chunk of Iowa
Stranded on the Nebraska side.
In the picture I am wearing a cowboy hat
And cowboy boots
As I sit on my three-wheeled speed machine
Splendidly fancied up with streamers and balloons
For the Fourth of July parade around town,
Which is just about to begin.
I loved that tricycle surpassingly
And as I approach my seventy-fifth birthday
I’m thinking it might be just the right time
For another one.
Not ready yet to give up cycling
But noticing myself
Having more and more little spats
I am concerned (and my wife vigorously agrees)
That on two wheels I might well become a menace
To myself and others on the roadway,
So one more wheel could be just the thing.
It’s not easy to adjust to the losses
That pile up in old age –
Agility, reflexes, balance, hearing, memory, dear friends –
And a little compensation from time to time
Can ward off despair.
For example, even now, months before my natal day,
I refresh and renew my spirit
By picturing a shiny three-speed three-wheeler
With its back-mounted basket
Full of groceries or library books
And me pedaling with mad abandon
Past pedestrians agog at the exuberant vitality
Of a well-wheeled old codger
In his own particular prime,
And for a happy moment
At the top of his game.
Poems for the Third Actcontains the delightful readings of poet Buff Whitman-Bradley of Northern California, a long-time contributor to The Third Act Project, and a wonderful guy who’s living a rich third act that has included a tough bout with cancer — about which he has written (and you will soon hear) a brilliant poem. His work is lyrical, poignant, often providing a well-deserved laugh. His lead piece is called “Horses of Memory.” Check him out and let him know what you think of his art.
Poems for the Third Act contains the delightful readings of poet Buff Whitman-Bradley of Northern California, a long-time contributor to The Third Act Project, and a wonderful guy who’s living a rich third act that has included a tough bout with cancer — about which he has written (and you will soon hear) a brilliant poem. His work is lyrical, poignant, often providing a well-deserved laugh. His lead piece is called “Horses of Memory.” Check him out and let him know what you think of his art.