At six by Jim Wardell

Peering through the chain link of a shared backyard fence
I saw you sit beneath the red maple tree
your father planted not too
too-many years before.
The coarse bark of the trunk pressed its tread
deep into your uncovered back.

Feet crossed, knees pulled up under a flowered Sunday
sundress dripping lavenders and daisies all over
white stockings and gleaming unlaced patent
leather, rocking gently, you hummed
melodies you called tunefuls and smiled the canted
smile I had years to learn to love.

A sudden autumn wind rushrustled brittled leaves
along the redbrick walls that lined the cobbled
alleyway behind our houses. You jumped,
laughing at the sound.  Manic, arms
outstretched, you danced as a leafquake loosened a shower
of seeds that helicoptered about you.

Come get ready for church your oldest sister called,
shrill and impatient to break the spell. You sang,
skipped, hopped your way back inside
leaving one shoe,
gleaming unlaced patent leather, forgotten
in a samara sea.


Jim Wardell plays, writes, teaches and learns at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. Some days he works. Recent publications include Snakeskin Magazine, Tipton Poetry Review, and Goliath Magazine.