The Front Porch Go to Mickey Newbury Back Porch
Back Porch


Author:  ZRyan
E-mail:  not available
Date:  2/12/2004 7:34:41 PM
Subject:  ...of things destined and promised...
Message:  A poem for my parents and the Porch. I hope it's not inappropriate to post this.

The Big Bands: Liberal, Kansas, Summer of 1955

by B. H. Fairchild

They were supposed to be dead, but they kept coming,
shunned by the cities but lunging into the gloom
of the outer counties, they kept moving along
two-lane highways on huge Greyhounds or night trains
destined for small towns without airports: Elk City, Medicine Lodge, La Grange, Minneola, Meade, Cimarron.
After the year of troubles--the family business drowning
in red, the broken plates, black words, slammed doors,
my mother and father in seperate rooms, the terrible silence
that grew like a clutch of weeds choking the little house--
after this, the summer came, the white skies, long evenings
unfolding like dark scarves tumbling to earth, mimosa blooms
floating from branches pummeled by baseballs in the side yard,
and they kept coming, the swing bands, the big bands,
those soft oceans of trombones and saxophones, of Les Brown,
Harry James, Kay Kaiser, Dorsey, and other priests
of music bound for Liberal, Kansas in the summer of 1955


The green Packard I have just washed dries by the curb,
and the evening sun makes a bronze plunder
of brick streets. Cottonwood branches grown too low
loom and whisper. Cicadas begin to pulse, raucous
miracles, a chorus of things destined, of things
promised and given, while I wait on the front step
watching the sun melt and ooze over the car hood
until the bumper's chrome turns gold and the whole show
suggests Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers gliding
through the front door to a dreamy trumpet fanfare.
They walk out smiling and awkward, my father
stiff in his brown suit, hand at my mother's elbow
as she, a woman I have never seen, leans
against him. As they step shyly toward the car,
a thick warm sadness lifts from the grass, lifts
and pours over them in a kind of silver haze until
they seem luminous, El Greco-like. The street lamps
make shadows like black roses on the pavement.
My parents wave. The Packard rumbles and pulls away.


I peek through a window of the Five-State Fair
Exhibition Hall and smile at the obsolete dance steps,
the surprise of elegance, a kind of embarrassed elan
and quaint formality from this man normally bent
over a machine lathe knee-deep in iron shavings,
this woman whose place was an ironing board or sink,
her hair pasted to neck and cheek. But now her hand
is delicate and light upon his shoulder, their modest
steps hardly visible, and behind them, a 16-piece
orchestra of boutonnieres and white dinner jackets
innocent as choral robes gleams in brass and silver,
and the blonde singer in what seems like a gesture
of worship embraces the air. This, in a building where
gigantic squash and cucumbers had been displayed
and where now my parents ease among a gathering
of farmers and roustabouts swathed in a gauze
of music, memorable as statues, in love again
with "Cherokee" and "Stardust" and "Mood Indigo."


It must have been this way before the war.
I think of my uncle Harry dancing soft-shoe while
holding a gin and tonic in one hand and quoting lines
from Double Indemnity, my mother and her sisters
doing their Andrews Sisters imitation, my father
and uncles passing around a bottle of Southern Comfort
and swapping lies. It all comes back to me at midnight
as couples spill from the hall, clutching their
signed photographs of Sammy Kaye and Chris Connor,
their empty bottles of champagne saved as souvenirs.
And there, among the last to leave, are my parents
moving slowly, seemingly lithe and moon-laden under
the field light like celebrities stepping from flash bulbs
and limousines. I follow them along the gravel path
where the tree branches are loosening the starlight
and letting the lamps from the adjoining fairground
splash and litter the hoods of departing cars.
The last
to emerge are the musicians. They are much older
than I imagined. They are weary, lugging their horns
and flipping their last cigarettes like shooting stars
through the enveloping shadows. Their talk has a slow,
easy familiarity, the talk of men on a long journey
accustomed to the ritual graces, the beginnings and endings,
of their trade, and they give themselves finally,
in single file, to the big bus rumbling at the edge of the lot,
then groaning into gear and slipping through the starlit night.

 ...of things destined and promised... by ZRyan at 2/12/2004 7:34:41 PM
 Re: ...of things destined and promised... by ^^ at 2/12/2004 7:51:53 PM
 Re: ...of things destined and promised... by (RandyD)  at 2/12/2004 7:58:28 PM
 Re: ...of things destined and promised... by ZRyan at 2/13/2004 6:48:28 AM
 Re: ...of things destined and promised... by Lee F. at 2/12/2004 8:24:51 PM
 Re: ...of things destined and promised... by Mamie at 2/12/2004 9:36:01 PM
 Re: ...of things destined and promised... by Mamie at 2/12/2004 9:38:08 PM
 Re: ...of things destined and promised... by Doug L at 2/12/2004 10:33:19 PM
 Re: ...of things destined and promised... by Craig at 2/13/2004 1:57:43 AM
 Re: ...of things destined and promised... by Roy at 2/13/2004 8:01:43 AM
 Re: ...of things destined and promised... by Claude Wooley  at 2/15/2004 2:52:23 PM