On a New Year’s afternoon of low leaden clouds, Don opened
to me the door of his house on Laurel Hill Road.
It felt smaller than most in Greenbelt,
crammed with bookshelves, album and cassette cases,
stacks of flashy-covered brochures about crop rotation
and soil conservation on end stands beside riven
chunks of porous blue-and-tan scoria,
but snug—imbued with the life it harbored.
On the round dinner table sat a platter of Pfeffernüsse.
I presented a sheaf of essays and poetry Don
invited me to bring—“You dive into
ideas I’d never think of but sound like my own.”
He handed me the first (maybe only)
chapter of his novel: having evaded
the death the Vietnam draft might have dealt,
Don drove from Saskatoon to Regina pursued
by a “mystic, alcoholic” Native bent on ending him
for unknowingly defiling a tribal holy site.
The hook compelled me to crave more.
Better, Don encored with his real story.
He cut his teeth on the New Left
at Kenyon College, uprooting himself to that
scholarly enclave in Ohio’s hills
from the Rust Belt’s Mohawk Valley outpost of Utica.
He and everyone he knew there grew up
“bastard children of welfare mothers.”
Don and his Kenyon camp heckled the college
president’s speeches, picketed ROTC
and the school’s recruiter. He told me
of a book’s photograph of the early
Bolsheviks caucusing in some Zurich café:
“They looked like they could have been just like us—
young, zealous, eager to remake the world.”
He befriended an exile from the Prague Spring’s
quashing who “wore the clothes of a leftist hippie,”
the standard ironic Army surplus shirt
and ragged jeans, all he could afford;
“Only we spoke to him, although
politics like ours stole his home.”
Don didn’t say how he fed himself
north of the border; returning with Carter’s amnesty,
he arrived in Greenbelt on winning a job
with the government he had run away from,
writing some ten miles from its seat
on the research farm at our ridge’s other foot.
He knew little of working earth,
but his editor touted glossing over the technical—
“He says science reporting can be as exciting as
the sports page.” Election to GHI’s board
ensconced him further in his new terrain.
Greenbelt Homes Inc., Don's and my housing cooperative
As we snacked and gabbed, desultory snowflakes
drifted to ground like the first plaster chips from
a cracking ceiling. I didn’t think
to ask myself why a man my father’s age should
welcome me into his home, sweetening the heavier snowfall
I departed through like the cookies’ rime of sugar,
or share a past pungent as their anise;
I didn’t think to foresee his gift of strength
when bread turned bitter, when home began to collapse.
Robert Levine (author) from Brookline, Massachusetts on June 09, 2020:
Thank you, Dora.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 09, 2020:
An honest creative way to revisit and reflect on the history of this era. Good poetry!
Robert Levine (author) from Brookline, Massachusetts on June 08, 2020:
Thank you very much, Chatra!
CHATRA RAM from BARMER INDIA on June 08, 2020: