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How We Wrote Our Lives
Liz Dolan

Upstairs our parents’ smoke
curled into cursive, floated out
the open window, with bickering
over Gabriel Heatter’s War,
Ah, my friends, the news is good tonight
until mist haloed just lit half moon
street lights and someone’s mother
bellowed through fire escape bars,
Time to come in.
So we left behind the chalked boxes                                                                                    
those scrawled rows on the sidewalk
filled with names of men
we might marry: Dwight, Cary,
Montgomery, Clark.
And under them the number of kids
we might bear: egg-shaped zero
to ten and where we might live:
Mandalay, Shangri La, Timbuktu or Tibet,  
names learned by rote in geography class,
syllables we rolled on our tongues
like exotic fruit-shaped candy.
We fluttered like breeze buffeted
butterflies over our cemented 
futures, which would streak, gutter bound
with the next rains. We would return to
our stuffy, overcrowded apartments
forgetting the colors of bridesmaids’ gowns:
azure, cerise, mauve, magenta—
colors we’d never seen but heard swirling
in radio ads before we had TV.

From They Abide (March Street Press).
Used here with the author’s permission.


Liz Dolan, a retired English teacher who lives in Rehoboth, Delaware, has won numerous awards for her work, including five Pushcart nominations. As director of an alternative school in the Bronx, where she was born and raised, Liz helped increase attendance from 65 percent to 90 percent by initiating a daily program of writing across the curriculum. Mother of two and grandmother of nine--who "pepper her life," says Liz--she devotes several days a week to babysitting in between composing poetry, short stories and memoirs.


Post New Comment:
Love the alliteration: smoke curling into cursive and breeze buffeted butterflies. Wonderful poem. Marilyn Zelke-Windau
Posted 09/19/2012 07:25 AM
Kevin, I agree. What a terrific line. I enjoyed the entire poem, a flash back into my own childhood. And another Rehoboth Beach poet that I have followed for some time.
Posted 09/18/2012 10:57 AM
Wonderful; the touch of the chalk "gutter bound with the next rain" powers the poem.
Posted 09/18/2012 09:14 AM
Posted 09/18/2012 08:31 AM
One of my favorite poems, Liz! Reading this stirs the memories of childhood, makes me feel as if it were only yesterday that I stood outside chalking squares on the street with my best friend.
Posted 09/18/2012 08:28 AM
nancy scott:
Delicious poem. I remember it all, even from the suburbs I dreamed I'd be rescued from. I wanted to marry Rock Hudson and have six kids. I got four!
Posted 09/18/2012 06:51 AM

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