Charged Memories

It was the third house we lived in,
though I have no memories of the first two.

Painted pink, it was at the eastern edge of town,
only three houses from cornfields.

I’m sure I was told to stay in the yard
by my mother. Definitely away from the road.

I was playing in the front yard, and for some reason,
I went onto the gravel driveway towards the back yard.

I never made it. There were two snakes
coiled up against the side of the house.

I ran screaming back to the front yard,
standing on the walk to our front door,

yelling for my mother to come to me,
afraid to be too close to the house.

I remember it as a long time, calling for her,
hoping my voice carried through the screen door.

She had to come to me. I couldn’t run to her.
She had to walk out to me and carry me inside.

That weekend, I sat on the top step
by the back door, watching my father.

He and a friend were cutting the long grass
of our backyard with scythes – or maybe sickles.

/  /  /

This poem was written to the old beginnings prompt at We Write Poems.

Process Notes: I know I have earlier memories, but none that I can recall so easily or strongly. There was no emotional charge to put those memories into the long-term parking. I have no memories of that first apartment in Indianapolis or the duplex in New Palestine, though I’ve seen a picture or two of the latter. My memories begin with that first house, of three in Morristown, that we lived in.

14 thoughts on “Charged Memories

  1. This is the reason writing about these memory flashes works. They are vivid. No fluff is contained therein. We have the memory, clean, with emotions when they are remembered. I remember, clearly my first snake fear. You must still be able to feel it in the pit of your stomach, a little tightening. I felt it reading the poem.



  2. I thought the end scene sitting on the top step and watching your father cut grass has undertones that made the reader shiver.


    • Irene, thank you. I very much wanted that last bit, a coda of sorts, to reflect on what had happened before, which it did in real life. As a child, I think it was a sense of relief, and love for my father, for his actions, trying to protect me after the fact. And probably catharsis too – I had to watch him cut that grass, even though I was still afraid there were snakes in that tall grass.



  3. Oh Richard, this makes me laugh – for my own recollection of danger and waiting for mom to make it safe again. In particular I like the transition of danger/rescue, then the unflagged back step with your father nearby and all the worry past-handed by his strength and action. Nicely done.


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