After you left fifth grade did flax
Ever once cross your mind again?
Would you know it if you tripped over it?
Yet the word lies rotting in my cranial shed

Every once in a while, when I least expect it
The door of that depot creaks open
Out crawls a dehydrated impulse
From a Roanoke colony of lore long lost

Proving as I age that I have retained more than
I am forced at the gunpoint of curiosity
To look inside, to rummage, to rediscover
To wonder why whatever it is took up residence

People, places, ideas, once heard or seen
In flashes of conversation or pages of reading
Imprint their images with jolts of neon
Lodging uninvited like cerebral squatters

Susanna married a doctor, Judith married a
And Hamnet (not Hamlet), poor boy, died at
Being Shakespeare’s children, all the world was
    in the wings
Who remembers them? I do.

John Cabot, explorer, navigator
Quintessential White Anglo Saxon Protestant in
Actually born in Italy as Giovanni Caboto
Who remembers that? I do.

Julia Ward Howe changed John Brown’s body lies
A mouldering in the grave to Mine eyes have seen
The glory of the coming of the Lord
What does that tell you?

When Andrew Jackson threw open the White House
To thank the common folk at his inaugural supper
The people came thinking that was soup next to
     the salad
And with patriotic gusto drank their finger bowls

In the 1920 World Series Cleveland’s Bill Wambsganss
Performed an historic unassisted triple play
Said about that moment after a career in the game
“You’d think I was born on the day before and died
      on the day after.”

They crawl or fly out several times a day
These facts or frills cannot be stopped
No sanitation engineer can scrub that depot clean
None will be allowed near it

Of course there are more personal items too —
Pieces of childhood, of first love
Of a wedding that didn’t take
Of shared beliefs, of common trusts

A sweet serenity, possibly misplaced
In a time less gluten free, more guilt free
When we moved wistfully in fire-engine red
     Radio Flyers
Or on a splintered sled called Rosebud

Scenes from teenage angst —
A disorder that occurs when one little dogged vowel
Hopes beyond hopes to be rescued
From a menacing gang of four consonants locked
     in arms

As I grow older and whiter
I warmly recall colors that were so much brighter
Days when rules meant more than powers of
When shock could still be provided without

One day I’m going to put on a pair of house slippers
Take a lamp and a laptop and sit inside my depot
And read everything I can
About that blue-flowered,
red-blooded plant called flax