You are the bedroom at the back of the house, the heaps of junk
and Rum Rum cars that exploded from a little sectioned box
tipping out of the corner of your closet.
You are the back yard, shouting out to Chicky and Colin catching balls,
knees and elbows spinning out to grab the next fly.
And that large patch of dirt where grass didn't have time to grow.
That warm dirt, softer than the powder
sprinkled on Vanilla Angel donuts after orchestra on Sundays.
You are Rose Avenue, up for a neighborhood game of Release,
defining back yards and boundaries between telephone poles
convincing Mom and Dad to let us stay out,
even after the street lights came on.
You are those hiding places, under Rhododendrons
where no one is ever found.
You are a chipped tooth, the word "Leftovers!" called before dinner,
and the pounding floor boards under the weight
of acrobats and wrestling matches, even with Mom.
You are canon balls, Fireballs, and Crazy Relay Day when the whole team
swam like dolphins, and windmills, and upside down butterflies.
You are the one who'd still try to win, no matter how ridiculous.
You are the Pennsylvania mountains. And the arm that grabbed me
to say "Look down!" before I jumped over a fifty foot drop.
You are also the bus ride in D.C. and the finger that pointed
to someone asleep on some steps, bundled up in a homeless coat
who said, "Look at everything. And keep looking.
We'll never be here again."
You are all the letters, countless as the stars,
missing from your spelling words. And all the pages
from all the books you printed. You are the monster press
spewing out paper to bind in your South Side basement.
And all the boxes and all the piles of books ready to ship out.
You are the South Side, the shops, the horns, the Beehive, the neighbors,
and Mabel's store across the street filled
with stale Clark bars and ketchup.
You are the rooftops and fireworks every summer.
A ricochet off high rises and burst of sparks
glittering down the Monongahela.
You are the last quarter I had. The one I used to call you
from the Greyhound Station to pick me up in the middle of the night
home from an interview when I didn't get the job.
You didn't say anything. You are the "It doesn't matter"
in situations like that, because you're my brother.
You are the son who bravely trumpets forth and carries our family name,
No matter how hard it is to pronounce,
no matter that it's all stripes and checkers,
or that it comes clumsy with trips and blinks.
You wear it like the Thunderbolt,
the oldest wooden roller coaster
climbing the highest hill in Kennywood.
You are the speed on the way down,
as everything inside lifts up into your ribcage
and through your rumbling, airborne heart, midflight.
My little sister, Geri Ann McLaughlin, wrote the poem when asked by my wife for a suprise 50th birthday party with some friends and family at Kennywood.
Officially, I turn 50 on May 16th, Saturday. That day includes a swim meet in Monroeville's JCC (the boys are in that) and a wedding. Great fun.