Saturday, July 31, 2010

Half Way There . . . An Ode to Fifty for Anne on Her Fiftieth Birthday

When we were kids
we could buy ten pieces of Bazooka bubble gum for fifty cents
we could unwrap the waxy paper
and read the comics about Bazooka Joe
and put that enormous piece of pink hard gum
in our mouths
and suck on it to soften it
and then chew it and chew it
and blow these great
fuschia bubbles
that popped
and stuck to our lips
and our chins
and Bazooka Joe was miniature and in color
and we wondered why he wore an eye patch
was it a pencil that disfigured him?
or was it therapeutic? ordered by the doctor
to remedy a lazy eye?
or did Joe just have a pirate fetish?
none of his friends ever acknowledged the eye patch
and of course, why would they?
they had afflictions of their own.
But this conundrum about joe was fleeting
and we discarded him as the gum lost flavor
But we had nine pieces left!
so you see, life was good

Fifty cents doesn’t get us the paper these days
it doesn’t get us across the Tappanzee Bridge
or through the Baltimore Tunnel
Fifty cents, half a dollar was so big when we were so small
But now its akin to a penny which barely got us a gum ball
back then . . . you put in the penny, turned the crank and
out came the gum ball and a prize, a pink poodle charm
to hang on a string around your tan neck for a day or two
til you got tired of it.

Fifty was huge to us then.
It was bigger than our fifth grade class
It was older than our mothers and older than our fathers
We dashed fifty yards and crumpled at the end
gasping for air and holding our bony knees
hoping the gym teacher didn’t ask us to do it again.

When we were teenagers
Paul Simon told us there were
Fifty Ways to Leave our lovers
But we were so young that leaving seemed easier
than stepping out the back jack
or dropping off the key Lee

And when we weren’t leaving our imaginary lovers
we were struggling to memorize the periodic table
because an F in chemistry was unacceptable back then
...50 is the atomic number of tin . . . and so on and so on

We attended our grandparents fiftieth wedding anniversary
and snuck out the back of the dance hall to smoke cigarettes
and share a stolen bottle of beer with our cousins
while our families marveled at how long a marriage had lasted

Fifty Fifty . . . are those the odds?
are we half way gone?
or half way there?
the glass of milk is different to each one of us,
drink it, taste it, feel the cold of it
and fill it up again!

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