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................................................................................................ Photo by Holly Northrop:"Polaroid:#257"

The Poetry Of...
Dwight Bitikofer...................................................

Spirits At 477 Oak Street

Seven spirits sang
though I did not hear their song
in the eleven years we raised a family
in the turn-of-century house
at the top of the second hill
on Oak Street

Once I may have heard voices
coming from the kitchen
though I have conveniently forgotten.
It is the numbers that intrigue me:
seven spirits, 11 years,
address number 4-7-7

I learned new awareness there
though I did not know the ghosts
when my sense of family values
were spirited away in disarray.
On midnight walks with the dog
God entered through my wounds

Old ghosts of hope and loss and joy
followed me down the stairs
in the wee hours past midnight on moving day
Unexplained sobs of loss
and grief and leaving something of myself behind
followed as I drove away

Did the ghostly presences
in that house add to our demise?
Heavy energy, lethargy,
a possible suicide presence not set free?
Eleven years, seven spirits,
top of the second hill - 477 Oak Street

The Best Thing...

The best thing I did tonight was to read
from a volume of poetry
the poet's words preserving and rekindling
images of his once present moments
- the doodle of a biker
with hair blowing in the wind
and speed lines added to show
movement through time
about which the poet
elaborated with further imagery
while riding on a train
past pastures of grazing cows
and fields of hay wound into bales

Or perhaps the best thing
I did tonight was to read
from the First Epistle of John
about how love and fear
cannot co-exist

or perhaps it was another writer's canvass
upon which he painted
a North Dakota town
with cars angle-parked on Main Street
where children shivered in their towels
and left wet footprints
walking from the swimming pool
on a Sunday afternoon
and that same writer recounting
the history of one Lawrence Welk
who began his legendary entertainment
career by experimenting
with the family accordian
while recovering from an appendectomy
in that town

Maybe the best thing I did tonight
was simply to be present
at my daughter's sixth grade
softball game - to comfort her
when she made a third out
by running forward instead of back
after a fly ball had been caught
- her team won anyway -
and then we ate at Steak 'n Shake
- just the two of us

Or it could be that equally
best things I did tonight
included picking up the 15-year-old
from his friend's house at 11
or still being up at 1 a.m. to congratulate
my oldest son on his
most profitable night
of pizza delivery tips.

Or maybe the best thing I have done tonight
is simply lying here
naked between the dark blue sheets
writing and feeling like
my recent depression
has lightened a little.
And I am required to turn the page
to continue doodling
the speed lines
of my passage here.

This Oldest One

I worry about this oldest one
tonight, not yet home from work
- he has classes tomorrow morning,
"I don't live here anymore"
he said awhile back when I
suggested he refold the daily papers
he scatters across the dining room table
checking classifieds for cars
or better jobs - and doing crossword puzzles.
"I just have my stuff here," he huffed.

I wonder, did he find the city hall
recently moved, in the municipality
where he apparently got another ticket?
"That was the letter from the attorney," he said.
"I have to pay court costs by Monday."
Today was Monday - back before midnight.
I hadn't asked about the letter
I didn't ask about the ticket
He said he may need to borrow
when his credit card is due.
"We'll look at that tomorrow," I replied.

I worry about this oldest one
so cynical, angry, defiant or depressed
yet bright and multi-talented with technology,
words, tools, and gifts of art and music
I rarely see him use.
Our logics - his and mine
have conflicted for half his life at least
- his rants repel my listening
- but not my caring.

I listen now for sound of door
or creakings of his movements
If I sleep before I hear
I'll look out the window
when my bladder wakes me
crossing the hall to peer in the dark
for the white of his car
on the black tarmac of driveway

He has the temperament of his mother
- no longer living here.
But people say
he looks like me
and I suspect
our longings, our dreamings,
are not that different
his and mine

I worry about this oldest one
who believes his logic trumps
the standard rule of law
And I hope to love enough
to let him learn
on his own
the lessons life will teach him

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