Vera Long

I forget appointments, dates, and time of day but I remember old love-songs: She’s My Lady; Lady Love; Come Back, Lady; This One’s for You; I Don’t Know What You’re Doing But Keep It Up!

I pull up onions, dig down deep in the hard-packed soil to find a bucket of red and white potatoes. I cut the okra pods from the tall leafy stalks. I’m itching to my elbows; should have worn long sleeves and gloves. I pick a basket of fat, juicy tomatoes, eat a couple of tiny sweet tom-a-toes. I carefully pull from the vines crisp greenbeans and pickle-size cucumbers, leaving the big ones for seed. I pull a few red-globe radishes and some tender leaves of iceberg lettuce.

It’s getting hot as blazes. I turn on the garden hose, let the cool water flush through my fingers, over my arms, splash some on my face, and quench my thirst before I sit down in the shade of the house to cool off.

At the sink, I wash the gritty off the vegetables, break beans and put some on to cook. I slice a platter of red tomatoes, cucumbers, white onions, and place the radishes and lettuce on one end of the platter, with a few chips of ice. I cut the okra, put some on to fry and put a few bags in the freezer. I check the roast and make a pan of brown gravy.

It’s time for my favorite DJ’s show, so I turn on the radio, lean back in a cane-bottom chair and listen to Country Music. Looking Back I Should Have Married You; If I Have to Steal Your Love, I Will; Middle Age Crazy; You Light Up My Life; Chains of Love. Tom T. sings May The Force Be With You Always. Eddie Arnold sings For the Good Times. George Jones closes with If My Heart Had Windows. I heave a sigh.

I forget phone numbers, street addresses, area codes, zip codes, but I remember songs by John Denver, Glen Campbell, Lou Rawls, Charlie Rich, Charley Pride, and, most of all, Elvis. Maybe my heart, mind, and soul have been brainwashed and re-programmed with songs on the radio, in the long lonesome years.

I scrape the new red potatoes, slice some to fry, turn the burner down under the skillet of okra, make tea, chip ice, listen to the news (all bad today).

But then I hear the chug-chug of my dearly beloved’s John Deere tractor coming down the road. I rush out, letting the screen-door slam behind me, then I run across the barnyard, take off the chain and hold the gate wide open.

Vera Long

The greenest green I ever saw was not a patch of spring grass, a lizard or a grasshopper. It slithered along on top of the okra vines, onto the fence, and over the gate. It stopped and looked at me to see if I was going to catch its long, stretched-out body.

“It’s a garden snake, harmless, eats bugs, and aphids. Leave it alone,” Mama said, in answer to my screams. “Kids used to catch them to play with.”

The bluest blue came not from a tub of blue rinse-water as I wrung out the washing, or an artist’s paintbrush, nor my dotted Swiss prom dress, or your new necktie, nor any summer sky. I saw this bluest blue the first time I looked into your eyes.

The reddest red I ever saw was not a strawberry, not a hummingbird throat, not a ruby ring, not the scarlet berries of a haw bush, and not a rose. It was your lips, smeared with my lipstick, our first kiss.

The pinkest pink was the cheek of our first-born in her tatting-trimmed pink piqué dress and bonnet.

The whitest white was the snow on our first Christmas together.

The blackest black was the day you had to leave me.

Where did the time and colors go?

Vera Long is the winner of the 2006 Anderbo Poetry Contest. Now a widow, she has been writing Country Poetry for sixty years, living in rural Oklahoma. She has written poems about life and love, time and place and family life. Many of her poems can be found in various anthologies and on-line. She is listed in Who’s Who of American Women for her poetry. Vera and her late husband, Othadell Long, were married almost 57 years. She still lives on their farm near her two children. She belongs to the Oklahoma Poetry Society and is Secretary of Stillwater Writers Group.

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