May 9, 2017

Three Poems by Nan Friedley: "Hand Me Down", "In the Center of the House", and "Unfinished Basement"

Nan Friedley was born in Huntington, Indiana, but spent most of her formative years in the Fort Wayne area. She graduated from New Haven High School and received a BA and MS degree from Ball State University in the area of Special Education/Deaf Education. She retired from a 30-year teaching career in Indiana and California. She has published a poetry collection related to teaching special kids called "Short Bus Ride" by BadKneePress. Her poetry has  appeared in the Inlandia Institute's Anthology, "Orangelandia," and PushPenPress.

Hand Me Down

It still had that new car smell and only 17 miles on the odometer.

It was the first car that hadn’t been passed down to me from a grandpa
or mother-in-law or driven to death by two brother-in-laws before me.

It scrutinized me on the lot with its jumbo headlights and seduced me with
its grinning grille to take a test drive. It was love at first sight…a 1975 jelly
bean yellow AMC Pacer with a wide body and greenhouse-like windows.

It was mocked by many, but I loved it. Together we survived the Blizzard
of ’76 without jumper cables, threaded a 15-car pile-up in whiteout
conditions and dodged on-coming cars on Interstate 69’s black ice. We
were invincible, like Batman and Robin.

It was a few years later that my father-in-law was given a new company
car and decided that I should inherit his practical, dull blue Chevy
Citation and sell my quirky Pacer. I was devastated.

It was “an offer I couldn’t refuse” coming from the patriarch of our Irish
Catholic family.

It had 31,486 on the odometer and smelled like him.

In the Center of the House

at the top of the stairs
and to the right
was her only bathroom
in the house at Harlansburg

if i had been the porcelain
claw-foot tub
i could tell tales of a
thresherman’s wife
daughter of a civil war vet
soaking in the soap’s
ash and lye film

if i had been the porcelain
claw-foot tub
i could tell tales of an
accountant’s wife
survivor of the depression
lounging in lavender scent
listening to melodies
of backyard birds
through the window’s screen
wishing she were somewhere else

if i had been the porcelain
claw-foot tub
i could tell tales of a
young girl holding tightly
certain the bathtub would take a stroll
she an unwilling passenger

rubber stopper on a metal chain
blug, blug, blug
water drains
remnants of what was
Harlansburg, Indiana

Unfinished Basement

painted wooden steps
led from the kitchen
to the level below
lit by a single bulb
on a pull chain
cement walls with nail holes
cracked cement floor

boxes of christmas decorations
side of beef in the freezer chest
dumping ground for couches
pianos, lamps, and tables
that used to live upstairs
ironing board and drying rack
hanging tools above
dad’s workbench

makeshift stage for
tap dancing, roller skating
talent shows, karaoke
songs from a record player
shirley temple on a 45
staged behind a shower curtain
scenery taped to rough walls
playbills printed in crayon

hot, muggy
palm sunday, april 11, 1965
funnel clouds nearby
warning, not a watch
barricaded in the basement
lights off, transistor radio on
watching rain pelt the tiny
windows at ground level
listening to the howling winds
huddled together…waiting

© Nan Friedley

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