By Gerald Yelle

Even as adults, we didn’t know how rich we were. Twice our parents lived in places with swimming pools the landlords allowed us to use. There was a pool table in one of the basements. The landlord came down a few times to yell at us for smoking. We made nice to his face and faces at his back. Our church was right around the corner, its interior something out of the Italian Renaissance. We always sat in front, though off to the side–we didn’t want to come across as holy rollers. In 1999 six-year-olds playing with matches burned the church and neighboring buildings down. Only then did we realize how great it was. Not that we went to church anymore. We had better things to do. Goals to pursue and careers in which nothing got in our way. After a while, despite our lack of religious dedication, we began to feel that we’d been blessed with more luck than we knew what to do with. It was hard not to notice. Winter snow moved to the side of the road like broken slabs of alabaster we could pass between unimpeded, as the Israelites at the Red Sea did. Birds sang in spring and bats entertained us after summer sunsets. We had companions, their wrists and ankles wrapped in warm skin we could touch whenever we got the notion while radios regaled us with songs that spurred us on, confirmed us in our romantic inclinations and made us want to celebrate them, and celebrate life in general. An embarrassment of riches is what it amounted to. Though it wasn’t the kind of wealth we could easily share. It was like a bank account of personal luck we didn’t have to do anything to deserve. We tried to enjoy it without becoming too dependent, because we knew that it could all be gone in an instant. Sometimes we didn’t know how to handle it. We felt alone in spite of it and resented our companions for not totally banishing loneliness from our households. We felt guilty for feeling resentful and felt as if there must be things about us they didn’t like, things they’d prefer to be away from. We feared we might lack impulse control and make them feel smothered and drive them off for good, or overcorrect and cause them to see us as cold and unfeeling. At times it felt like no matter what we did we were bound to upset the delicate balance between work and play. Then our fears would abate and all but disappear. Only to return again, and disappear again, like a kind of weather.  

About the author

Gerald Yelle’s books include The Holyoke Diaries and Mark My Word and the New World Order. He has an e-chapbook at Yavaneka Press: “Industries Built on Words” and a chapbook “No Place I Would Rather Be” from Finishing Line Press. FutureCycle will publish Dreaming Alone and with Others in 2023. He is a member of the Florence, MA Poets Society.

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