Palisades Park

My father sent me home.
An errand. Leaned out the
bus window. The engine idled.
He promised the bus would
wait to whisk me
with the big kids
to Palisades by the Sea.

My feet scorched pavement — 
both directions — and fingers
gripped the thermos handle
tight enough to turn them white.
I turned the corner to the church,
stopped on a copper penny.
Alone in an empty lot,
with only an oil stain
from the bus
to mock me.

Tears dropped, tiny rivulets
flowed into a stream then
burst into a downpour,
flushed clean cherished dreams of
Palisades palaces where mermaids
sing of Neptune Kings and the
sombrero waving octopi who
shark bust in Fort Worth surf,
tentacles whipping like lassoes.

Next summer (after
words whispered well
into the night, words that
warmed the wall and
my ear–pressed
close to listen) mother
ushered me into the bus,
picked two babysitters,
paid them PBJs.

A half hour later I learned
Palisades was oversold.
A promise as easy to crush
as a Pixie Sticks tube
with sugar sucked out.
Bible school bunks, dining halls.
Chapel, tennis courts and
evergreen stands for teens to
hold hands and slip away.

Slip away like all
my father’s promises.
Like the fishing trip when
he left tackle and bait in
a cooler in the carport.
We sat on the dock,
drank Dr. Pepper while
he listed the litany of
his father’s failures.

Slipped away like every
school play cancelled when
a call to ministry Intervened.
Like every Cub Scout
camping trip cast aside
for Revival (with hymns
sermons, altar calls and,
twice a night, the offering)
which demanded front row
attendance — sitting straight,
setting examples.

Slipped away like the
times I promised I’d
pick up Bryan, only
my car broke,
stranding him at
day care (where bullies
ground his face into sand).

Slipped away like the
ball games I promised to
see then slipped away to
canvass for one more
indigent cause, to
shuttle the poor to
one more rally, to
march at capitals,
corporations,
city halls.

Promises like wind tunnels,
nothing but fast air and roar.
Promises like Pixie Sticks
on the sea shore, washed out
in the tide.