I Grew Up In Mayberry

A collection by Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall (Rated G)

“I Grew Up In Mayberry”

“I grew up in Mayberry,” the old man said,
“And in Dodge City.” He looked into his empty cup.
“I don’t know where I am now. I just don’t know.”


Building Fence And Smoking Cigarettes

I passed two men who were building a fence
Cigarettes on their lips, work-stained old hats
Spirit level, carpenter square, calculations
The morning frost hard-worked into honest sweat

I passed two men who were building a fence
Its posts and rails strong-muscled into place
And hammered against the autumn hurricanes
With nails of steel, extruded steel, bright steel

I passed two men who were building a fence
With hands and tools and strength and uncommon sense


On My 74th Birthday
“The eternal magic of eternal things sends the dreamer out into the world”      -Rod McKuen, “January 2”

I didn’t mean to be 74
That wasn’t part of my master plan
To be young forever, cooler each year
But suddenly I’ve become invisible

Once upon a time and long ago
I drove my old MG to California
A sleeping bag, a few books, a few poems
A portable typewriter, some portable dreams

I remember breaking down in Tucson
But best of all, I remember the dreams


Our Antikythera Mechanisms

I didn’t mean to be 74
That wasn’t part of my master plan
To be young forever, cooler each year
But suddenly I’ve become invisible

Once upon a time and long ago
I drove my old MG to California
A sleeping bag, a few books, a few poems
A portable typewriter, some portable dreams

I remember breaking down in Tucson
But best of all, I remember the dreams


Paper Sacks I Have Known 1

When I was a lad I was a sack boy at Mixson’s
I stacked and sacked coffee and corn and beans
To carry out to cars along the street
In a little town that no longer exists

Sacks in three sizes were my tools of trade:
The little ones for Papa’s cigarettes
The mediums for tonight’s milk and bread
The big ‘uns for the Saturday in-towns

Mixson’s is closed, as is my little town
And paper sacks, too, just cannot be found


Paper Sacks I have Known 2

Like a block of marble waiting to be carved
A paper sack is art waiting to be made
Because after Mom puts the groceries away
The empty sack is full of possibilities:

A royal crown with construction-paper jewels
A Robin Hood hat if you fold it just right
A Halloween mask for a scary trick-or-treat
(Smell my feet; give me something good to eat!)
A boat
A puppet
A pinata
A brave knight’s armor
A cat toy
A three-year-old-daughter toy
A pony express rider’s mail pouch
A kite (I could never make mine fly)
A book cover without adverts
A canvas for crayon art
A luminaria
A matte to be cut out, crayoned on, and framed

And after your art is sent into the world
That tuckered-out sack, that sleepy little sack
Is tucked into bed in the warm garden soil
To awaken in the spring as flowers for you!

Childhood – no batteries or programming required


Rod McKuen at a Garage Sale

We don’t know who Baby Booger and Tommie were
They sent each other notes and underlines
And colored slips of paper from page to page
In Someone’s Shadow (“Hardbacks 25 Cents”)

The exuberance of adolescent arcs
Reminds us of our long-ago callow youth
When we thought we had discovered something
In secretly sharing free verse in home room

And we had – indulging in forbidden lines
Is still good therapy for being sixteen


Saint Augustine’s Stolen Apples

Saint Augustine reflected on the sins of his youth
The stolen apples especially bothered him
In his life-long penance and his quest for truth
That memory, somehow, was especially grim

As for me I remember a long-ago night
When I flung a dead ‘possum at Miss Cates’ door
I know that such a thing just isn’t right
But she was mean and old (maybe twenty-four)

Saint Augustine’s sins hung about him like weights
And I –
I don’t feel bad about tormenting Miss Cates!

Author’s Note: My friend Gordon and I found the ‘possum as ripe roadkill, and the deed quickly followed the inspiration. I did the tossing because Gordon was the getaway driver. Miss Cates was a brand-new teacher and probably quite nice. I do know that we were little jerks and that she deserved better. Gordon won the Silver Star in Viet-Nam, was a good husband and a beloved stepfather, and died in early middle age.


Ships of Theseus

Every seven years, some say, we are renewed
In coded sequences not understood
Animal cells, well-timed, within us die
They leave forever, replaced and not refreshed

But even so, our selves are still our selves
And condemnations from the past endure
And praises, too, all of them a little worn
And the remember whens are an ever now

The eternal Wind that was before we are
Is the Forever in our little ships


The Cruise Of The HMS Disreputable

For myself,
I knew as soon as I could read and write
That I must be a poet.

-Sir John Betjeman

I left Mesquite and broken promises
In the after-market rear-view mirror
Bolted to the wing of my third-hand MG
And rattled along that magic road to the west

Sleeping bag, Olivetti portable
Dostoyevsky, Yevtushenko, some clothes
An honorable discharge from a dishonorable war
A few undistinguished undergraduate credits

And now…

I have left behind my Nobel acceptance speech
Because the journey will have to be enough


The Man Who Delivered The Movies

The Saturday afternoon matinee
Outside the Palace Theatre in a line
Impatient for the hour, the man, John Wayne
Air-conditioning, popcorn, Coca-Cola, escape

Then riding to the rescue of the ranch
The man who delivered the reels of fun
Running up the steps with a big grey case
Of Rio Bravo – he brought us our dreams

And did he know, speeding to little towns
That he too was a hero of the Golden West?


Whatever Happened To All Our Little Notebooks?

We all saw the same old bumper sticker:
This is not a rehearsal; this is your life
And so we carried little notebooks around
Discreetly jotting down the overheards

In coffee shops and class, the mid-night shift
The bus to work, the elevator up
The escalator down, the line at the bank
For the poems or plays or novels we’d write

The cafeteria was a notebook itself
Between the salad and dessert we fell in love


Who Is This Stranger?

Who is this stranger sitting beside me
On the road from one place to another
A nephew who in the long ago
Was my partner in Dark Tower and chess

He is a grown man now, balding a bit
Who wants to save my soul from damnation
A religion he invented last year
He’s got a website; I could look it up

As a boy he was so good at chess
As a man he can’t sort out all the pieces


The Men of the Bible Class Pose for a Photograph on the Steps of the Methodist Church in 1968

My grandfather once threatened some other old man
With his pocketknife just before the ten o’clock
Maybe it was over a point of theology
That’s surely as exciting as Bible class ever got

The Baptist men were the city council
And most of the school’s board of trustees too
But the Methodists somehow had more self-assurance
You can see it in their bearing and their suits

They seem to be their fathers in 1898
With railroads and sawmills – great times ahead

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