August 31, 2013


I climbed a side trail this morning

and saw an old bur oak towering

above the bluff and ringed by egg-blue sky

and saw an old bur oak from memory

where, in the summer of ’67,

a steamy August afternoon

PereMarquettePark on the Illinois River

Betsy and me lying on a blanket

in a secluded tangled thicket of trees and bushes

my car the only one in the high parking lot

this was the day

Betsy saying ‘yes’ over and over,

me responding ‘are you sure?’

‘yes’ over and over

and we kneel and undress

and she lies back

one hand over her groin

this mysterious valley of the girl

and her pixie’s red hair

and her upturned delicate nose

her skin is freckled china

her breasts are teacups

and this is the picnic of all pinics

and the menu is salt and liquid and berry

this was the day

and she murmurs Catholic prayers

we have been petting and praying for weeks

and her lilac perfume

and honeysuckle and Queen Ann’s lace perfume

and, eyes shut, we do Braille

on each others’ sweating bodies

this was the day

‘yes’ over and over

when ‘I’m ready do you love me

do you marry me soon

do you intend will you do you

do you do you do you’

and I pause . . . and hear

‘our father who art in heaven’

and I sing yes! like a mad songbird

this was the day


until another car drives up

and I rise and see a blue Chevy with fins

and four nuns all costumed

jumping out for their picnic

and Betsy grabs her clothes and runs

and I grab my clothes and the blanket and run

and we dress standing and fumbling

Betsy sure this is God’s retribution

Betsy fumbling with a rosary, murmuring

‘we have sinned’ (we hadn’t thanks to the nuns)

‘we are lust-filled’ (we were)

‘let us pray’

and we stand rumpled and pure

and Betsy prays to the Saints Who’s Its

at least two St. Francis’s

and I say ‘amen’

she tells me it is all my fault and I have to go along

a concatenation of amen’s because

until the next weekend when we’ll try it again

so I walk up to an old bur oak tree

and punch the massive trunk for penance

breaking my right thumb

it is still crooked to this day, bent to the left

and the oak is not injured

and Betsy marvels at the sacrifice and kisses the angled digit

and the nuns meet the innocent children in the wood

and we introduce ourselves

this was not the day

and the nuns taking turns examining my right thumb

which ‘I tripped and fell over a rock’

me all the time thinking of teacups and freckles

and the nestled nested

the  mysterious valley of the girl




About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: eugenebaldwin.com. I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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