Across the Road

by Anne Maren-Hogan

Peering from my living room window.
I watched my brother cross the dirt road
to the one-room schoolhouse next door.
Dad watched too, and told a story of himself
carrying a fresh, splashing bucket of water,
hand in hand with his sister to the same #8
school. Two outhouses still stood round back,
girls and boys, the push and pull of the wind
slamming their doors back and forth.

Under the maples in my own yard, I stood watching
their recess; kicking balls, a merry-go-round flying
in circles, and big kids holding the back of bikes
to steady the new rider. The bell clanged and bodies
rushed for the door. I imagined, looking through
the glass, that I was opening the yard gate, following
my brother as he turned the doorknob into tall
windowed building.

The next fall, Paul Lee and I made up the entire kindergarten.
With a sense of familiarity and ownership I told him, Watch
out, you’re going to hell since you’re a Lutheran
. His family
rode bikes a mile and a half while the Holubs came by way
of the mud road, hitching a white horse to the flagpole.

I listened to the others read to Mrs. Lasche as the pencil
sharpener chewed them to a point and the room filled
with smells of chalky erasers. Mittens dripped by the coal
stove, giving off a musky waft of drying wool.

I stared out the big school windows toward my own house.
Dad drove the red Farmall tractor slow, out to the field, while
Mom hung a basket of pants and diapers on the clothesline,
and Grandma threw a pailful of potato peels to the turkeys.

I stood there, fingers on the windowsill,
looking from one world
to the other.

Anne Maren-Hogan writes and gardens in one of the oldest intentional communities in the country, dedicated to simplicity, sustainability, and consensus decision-making. Her childhood on an Iowa farm, which her family still farms, provides material for her poetry, as deep and rich as the black earth from which she comes. Her first chapbook, The Farmer’s Wake, was published by Finishing Line Press. Her second chapbook, Laying the Past in the Light, published by Longleaf Press, looks at the mystery of death and the resurgent power of landscape. Her manuscript, Vernacular, was chosen as the winner of the Lena M. Shull Poetry Book Contest by the 2021 North Carolina Poetry Society.