A Childhood Around 1950

Sometimes a horse pulled a wagon down the street.
A knife-grinder sometimes knocked at the back door.
Airplanes passed over. Put to bed in the poignant
half-thereness of summer twilights, we followed their long wobble
into Midway, rare and slow as dragonflies.

New kinds of safety. Our parents held their breath,
though sickness, for us, was the vile yellow powders
that burst from the capsules we had to gulp, and couldn't.
The new danger quiet in the milk and air.

The electric chair troubled no one. Good and evil
were stark things, as grainy movies made the dark.
But the city stopped if one of us was stolen,
and found thrown, days later, in a forest preserve.

It was what was. A childhood always is.
Fathers came home at noon and took off their hats.
Later, streetlights . . . But who was that lamplighter, in the stories?
And we went on living it, like a wave, that doesn't know
it is at every moment different water.

"A Childhood Around 1950" first appeared in Tikkun