Lewis Gardner


My favorite in the box of 64
Was Prussian Blue, rich with its hint
Of green, blue enough to suggest
An exotic 19th-century
Militaristic world.
I'd have colored everything Prussian Blue -
Except tree trunks, hands, and faces -
But it had to be carefully rationed
Lest, its paper cover stripped away,
It would wear down to nothing.
Without it: prosaic Umber and Sienna,
Yellow-green, the all-but-useless White.
Adult life, I assumed, is when you own
All the Prussian Blue you'll ever need
To color anything you want.

Class Bear

A preschool magazine has published
a teacher's note about Mr. Huggy,
the class bear. She sends him home
with a different kid each day.
They also take Mr. Huggy's diary,
for a parent to write a page detailing
activities of the ursine guest -
a nice idea for reading readiness,
though I see it leading to trouble:
All right, I'll write in the damn book -
Mr. Huggy can watch me getting drunk!"

But I really like the idea of a class
. Does this mean, after nearly
30 years of marriage, I downgrade
human contact? Of course not.
But think about dogs, for instance.
What spouse could you tie up outside
the market, to whimper while watching
the door, greeting your emergence with
the canine equivalent of awe
at the Second Coming? In the evening,
alone with you at home, he looks
with sad eyes that tell you:
I love you so much - what a tragedy
that we are different species
Meanwhile, why can't my office have
a Mr. Huggy? He'd be there
when we need consoling, ready
to be squeezed when the world gets
hard and humiliating, and every night
a lucky colleague, each in our turn,
takes Mr. Huggy home.

In the Garden of the Senior Residence

Jean tells how she'd go to pubs
and meet American soldiers--she'd sing
the latest songs--White Cliffs of Dover,
Berkeley Square--teenager in London
in the war years, time of privation,
of jokes in the bomb shelter. She tells us
in the fading light, surrounded
by wings of the building.
Every night, after feeding all
her younger brothers and sisters (mother
dead, her father an alcoholic),
out she'd go--it was a wonderful
time--"Sing us another one, Jeannie!"--
as well as a terrible time--"The boy
you danced with could be dead
the next week," she says.
We hear a siren beyond the garden
walls--a resident rushed to the hospital.
An American married Jean, brought her
to Massachusetts; when he beat her,
she had to leave him. A nanny in Boston,
raising other women's children--
when the husband died, her sons
began to visit her.
Tears in her eyes as we speak--there's
a new director of the residents' choir
who won't let Jean sing solos,
so she's quit the choir. "My heart
isn't in it anymore. They all
like my songs--I know the words
of all the old songs--but she
doesn't want me to sing them."
Sing for us, I ask, sing
White Cliffs of Dover. "Here?" she asks.
"Here and now?" Please, I say,
and she sings--her light, clear soprano
reminding us of bright nights
when life was waiting for everyone young
to bite huge chunks and down them with beer
before the sirens wailed.

About the Author

Lewis Gardner’s poems and plays have been published and staged in the U.S., England, Russia and Australia. His "Tales of the Middlesex Canal" was recently presented in New York City and the Hudson Valley and will be presented next summer in Massachusetts. His "The Boomerstown Women’s Club Cultural Affairs Committee Presents an Evening with the Muse, Featuring All of Boomerstown’s Leading Poets" was performed at 15 theaters and clubs in New York City. "Remember Me," a play written for Academy Award-winning actress Kim Hunter, was performed by her in New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey. He was twice a finalist for the Walt Whitman Award.

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