By Jenny Kalahar
Having lived with animals all of my life, I barely have any significant memories that don’t involve them in some way. I was fanatical about riding my bike every day during the warm months of the year, so when it rained I had to get creative. Here is a poem about one rainy afternoon with Skipper, my huge, furry mutt, and our orange-striped cat, Filbert.
Childhood’s Rainy Day Ride
Not being allowed to ride my bike in the rain
I exhumed my old tricycle from beneath gunny sacks
and luxuriated in the grand expanse of the musty garage
that my father’s car and my oldest brother’s had left empty
while they were off working in a square space
unaware of the rain
The day’s beating heart was sometimes electrified with flashes
Or it boomed overhead or at a distance beyond the rooftops.
I rode for miles on that trike
my too-long legs on the pedals splitting outward awkwardly
pump after pump, around and around endlessly,
the uneven dirt floor becoming as familiar as any path I’d ever known.
The open garage door welcomed in rain-soaked breezes
and gave me a view to the driveway, houses, hills and sheets of falling water
The dog in his small shed nearby was silent
his eyes, tired of watching my circles,
closed for a rest, blocking out the weather as best he could.
I invited Skipper in, and he accepted, perking up
and I invited in my orange cat who was sharing the shed,
and Filbert accepted
Filbert leaped to my shoulders,
clinging with his claws lightly digging in.
Skipper led the way around the perimeter
and we made a rainy day parade.
A brown sparrow swooped in through the open doorway
and then a squirrel silently came to stand just inside to watch.
Around and around we went
as I told everyone my memories and stories
about the things that lived in the garage
There was a snow shovel my brother used as a sled one time
and the hammers that built the bridge over Mom’s flower garden.
Some of that bag of cement was made into a sidewalk patch
that now had my name written in it.
A tent we’d bought used went with us to the edge of the Mississippi
where we’d seen beavers and muskrats diligently working.
An oilcan often was used to fix a squeak or a stuck
and a rope pulled my little red wagon.
The rafters had my four brothers’ names carved in them
and there by the canoe was a wheelbarrow I’d ridden a few times
Skipper barked when the squirrel crept closer to hear
but he didn’t back off as I thought that he might.
The sparrow dove and scolded my dog
for teasing his friend like that.
Filbert jumped down from my shoulders at last
when the rain stopped, and the thunder moved east.
Skipper sat in the doorway and sniffed the wet earth
not even minding the squirrel.
The sparrow circled our garage, first inside then out
cheerfully calling goodbye,
and I put my old tricycle back under the sacks
done with my rainy day ride
Jenny Kalahar, her husband Patrick, and their pets live in Indiana where she sells used and rare books and writes novels and poetry. She is the author of a fantasy novel about teens stuck with the worst-ever magical power, This Peculiar Magic. Her two novels about fostering cats are Shelve Under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats, and The Find of a Lifetime. Her collection of nostalgic and humorous poetry is One Mile North of Normal and Other Poems. For more, visit her blog.
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