Gypsum – A Poem

The old high school

For maximum hypocrisy after my last post about not enjoying poetry, here’s a poem I wrote. It’s about rural Oklahoma, and became the basis for the aesthetic of the novel I’m writing at the moment. More updates about that later.

This poem is based on a trip I took to Hitchcock, Oklahoma with my girlfriend after my Grandfather died. I spent a lot of time there as a child, and it was weird going back.

Gypsum

My big red sneakers cover the old small footprints I made

In the dusty white gypsum of my Grandfather’s land,

I’m not sure if I belong here anymore.

 

The days were always long and sunny when I was there.

My triceratops radio played fuzzy notes, that far out,

Circular and golden and shining in the midday sun.

I swung my feet off the edge of the truck as we drove

Toward the outskirts of the outskirts, dipping old Lures

Into a sparkling brown little pond, surrounded

By miles of green pasture and slowly lumbering cows,

Brown and black and white. The winter wheat lined

The edges of the big, big world.

 

Today, going back, the world seems just as big and far

Reaching, but am I fooling myself? The fence, the roses

My grandmother planted are gone, ripped out. The Grass

is growing up and sprouting past the white rocks

Of the driveway, forgotten and left to cover everything.

 

My orange and purple Huffy bike had rickety looking

Training wheels, and I thought maybe I never needed

Them in the first place, like they were there to make me feel

Safe – but my father held the back of the seat when

We took them off, and that was enough until I could

Do it myself, there on the cracked asphalt of Thompson

Street. It was hot and the spinach can (just an old water

Tower that my mother and I had named so) stood

Up in the distance, shining and blue. The purple and

Orange of my bike leaned against the dull rusted tin

Of the chicken coop. Light peeked out through The branches

Of a pear tree. I broke a branch off and tilted at the tree trunks,

Sword fighting invisible enemies.

 

The grass is brown now and the winter wheat has yet to sprout

From the red dirt. The sky is blue and cold, and the swingset

Around the old crumbling bricks of the High School squeaks

In the wind. The windows are covered with “No Trespassing.”

 

A little stream of water, a river to me, flowed down the hill

From the gutter and down into the forgotten playground.

The high school was defunct, but Poppy owned the keys.

The doors creaked as my mother lead me down a dusty

Hallway, and up squeaky stairs to a library full of old books

That nobody wanted, but I wanted them. We filled boxes

With the old tomes, with Berenstein and Seuss,

And other names I didn’t know. Little shafts of light

Came through the painted windows. Outside the wind blew

An old steel merry-go-round and broken barns stand

On huge flats of grass, with pygmy horses and animals

Never meant for farm work.

 

We’re driving home and we stop and get a word find —

What was my Grandfather’s favorite puzzle — at the grocery store.

The magazine rack is outdated, with magazines from 2008.

Hitchcock lays behind me, much the same as it was,

Standing in its usual state of disrepair — rotting wood,

Flat, unchanging land — its suspended decay, minus

One.

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2 thoughts on “Gypsum – A Poem

  1. My grandparents lived there too. Greats, actually. I drove through today. Hot spring day so dry my skin cracked. Something about that red dirt and gypsum, though. Isn’t there. Thanks for your poem.

    • Thanks for your comment! It was quite a place. Strange and wonderful things happen to your memories when you write fantasy out of old childhood locations. This place was one of the biggest inspirations for a novel I wrote. Still seeking publication, unfortunately.

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