Summer Survivor* 35 lines


At Grandpa's farm in summertime

every afternoon at five

Swab would leave his front-yard shade

and we would ply the same old trail

through the hilly pastures

of Southern Illinois

to barn the cattle for the night.


But something marvelous

made the daily trek eventful.

A redwing blackbird joined our posse

every single day, rain or shine.

He'd punctuate the journey

with rolling tree-top melodies,

sometimes even fencepost flips,

and other daring wing-song combinations.


He'd greet us at the great persimmon,

then dance among the poplars,

and weave the fencerow half a mile

till we broke off toward the hollow

where the sated cattle loafed.

He'd reconnect on the backhaul

and rewind his artistry

while our long-stemmed caravan

slowly twisted home in single file.


I never understood his interest

in the daily round-up. Was our

tryst his only entertainment?

Or had he secret business

with my small companion?


Decades later I returned.

A condo crawl had buried all

beneath its cold cacophony,

except his trilling music score

and dashing choreography

scripted here from memory.


Jerome L. McElroy


*Accepted TAPJOE (mid-1999)