The boyhood days come back again:
Over the fence, and run away;
Because the shattered window-pane
Had tinkled in the empty house,
Where we, exploring, hoped to play.
A moment, and that ghost-filled world
Was left behind, and we raced out
On drug-store streets, where movies whirled
Us far away from Washington,
Then gave us life to talk about.
Those tokens for the trolley-cars;
Those boy’s books read spread out among
Lead soldiers, stamps, and Hershey bars;
And hide and seek; and jumping on
The backs of trucks; and door-bells rung.
Oh, I can see the lights come up,
While we stay wrestling on the grass,
Before I go to share your supper;
And now I listen while you play
Chopin on Sunday after Mass.
Your house was marble, mirrors, grand,
Where you spoke French when bidden to.
Ambassadors would throng there, and
Their cards fill up the Chinese bowl;
Yet that meant nothing real to you.
The grandeur which you moved in might
Have made you petty, cold, and hard -
The spoiled boy who was always right.
But you preferred to be the sort
To vault the fence of your back yard.
You were the dark-eyed, dark-haired friend
I loved to be with: always fun.
In all the days I used to spend
With you, I never once had cause
For grievance when a day was done.
So when I think of how we swam
Those afternoons away, and how,
Out at Glen Echo, you would slam
Your dodgem gaily round the floor,
It makes me feel a sadness now.
For you have had your life to bear:
Not that I mean the grandeur gone:
You were too sensible to care
Too much for that; but the hard weight
Of illness, weighing down like stone.
When we were boys, we promised each
Other we would return from death,
Whoever was the first to reach
That paradise, and say just what
Games could be like played out of breath.
Will it be you, whose good times came,
After some spring days, to an end?
Or I, who have tried these years to tame
Words and feelings into order?
Which ghost will smile at which boyhood friend?
Quien sabe? As you might have said
When we were older and drank beer
Together - life still there ahead.
Who knows? But in the meantime, Paul,
Only these memories bring you near.