Thursday, January 10, 2013


I know, exclamation points are unnecessary . . .
But you should remember that I spent 45plus
years in California. Icicles were thrilling when I was a kid in Scotia, New York,
across the Mohawk River from the General Electric complex.

We used to suck on icicles, if we could get them.
So real icicles strung from the patio roof. . . .

Here's my signature poem with the icicles in it. It has appeared in print,
most recently in the San Jose Poetry Center's Caesura.

Skating Backwards

Of course it is not all there in the poem, on the page,
     not all there. My blue snow suit with the zipper; black coal
          for the snowman's buttons. My father leans his shovel

on the house and lifts me up to break off an icicle.
     His boots are black and called galoshes. Their metal
          buckles jingle—like bits on horses in the movies.

Saturday we went to Collins Park and stood in line
     with Burns and Evelynn to slide down the long
          hill. My father pulls his knitted cap over his ears.

My mother can knit in the dark during home movies!
     I want to marry Burns. My sled has silver runners;
          every year my father paints all the sleds, adding one,

inscribing on each in block letters, the new owner's name.
     I am the oldest; my blue sled the biggest one. This year,
          Robert is old enough for a sled ride. I hold him

between my knees and give him a good safe ride—the kind
     that scares you not too much and still
          you've held your breath for the whole sled ride down the long hill.

Closer to the lake, the skaters have built a bonfire.
     If Daddy had his skates today, everyone could see
          him skate backwards! Bright blue mittens match my skating socks.

Burns is my good friend. My feet and hands are warm. I squeeze
     my small brother's mittened hand and fix the scarf around
          his nose for him to breathe through. Who can go home again?

Yet surely you can understand how real for me that frozen
     time, hard ice, soft snow, my father young again.

June Hopper Hymas

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