When I was but a slippy youth, impelled by lusty flush
To run and skip and hide and sing like any careless thrush,
The boys and girls around the street joined in my serenade,
Or fought with clods of earth or set up stands for lemonade.
The slightest hint of mildness in the weather caused adults
To open all the windows for some gossip (or insults).
We yelled our silly heads off as we scalped each other like
The Westerns on the TV, or went on an oval hike –
Around the alleys, past trash cans just full of won’drous tripe,
Scuffing on the clinkers as we rolled a broken pipe.
Mrs. Berg put up a sign that said “Stay Off The Lawn”.
Old Benny on the corner drank his Schlitz and gave a yawn.
Cranky Mrs. Hannigan put out her wash to dry
(They said she beat her husband so until he’d start to cry).
Nozzles on the hoses sent the dew upon the grass,
Held by men in t-shirts with their arms as stiff as brass.
The cavalcade of bikes and trikes and hopscotch-playing girls
Made the sidewalk squirm just like a box of baby squirrels.
To sit inside when sun and wind made love to all the trees
Was just about as stupid as a snort of anti-freeze.
Even Mrs. Henderson, as old as Herbert Hoover,
Smiled upon the bedlam through the chinks of parlor louver.
The noise was a cocoon that wrapped the neighborhood in fleece;
Underneath the woofs and tweets there lay a modest peace.
Today – today, I walk by neighborhoods and cul de sacs
Where fam’lies park their minivans and figures made of wax
Sit inside the windows playing games intensely bright
While the beauty of the world fades into unmourned night.
The quiet doesn’t cheer me or promote much peace of mind.
The lack of noise, like lack of sight, is something dull and blind.
The yards are neat and comely, and the children are well-bred;
A lemonade stand here would get you handcuffed by a Fed.