INNOCENCE                                                 photo: "Near Panoche" by Tim Goodman

In 1963 on the west side of Omaha

an oil drum painted like a flag stood

guard at the edge of our neighborhood--

down where 98th met Happy Avenue

and the city segued into a fertile plain.

Hanging from it was a golden spigot

and every afternoon, hordes of us, raised

on Spock and Suess, would drink until

satiated, then return to our unfenced yards

that ran together like the blood of aliens

in a democratic land--play Kick the Can,

Slinky, Frisbee...John F. Kennedy was just

finishing his term, and by the time we got it,

those other doctors would have a cure for

cancer.  Naturally, it didn't work that way--

the dark surfaced as the seasons changed,

and the girl next door grew hinged to the

entire world, not just the cherry visions of

transitory wealth.  But thinking back, I can't

help but wonder if that lack of knowledge

was a prerequisite for wisdom, knowing now

that the bottomless tank was not bottomless

at all, but akin to the long drive you take

when you first receive your license--

mile after mile of statuesque trees

lining the highway, leading you to believe

that in this car, at least, heaven exists...

that by the time you get to wherever it is

you're going, you'll be old enough to manage,

old enough to live minus lightning...old

enough to blur the distinctions between a

dark complicated world, and the one you love.

Road to Panoche
 © Eliot Schain