Poetry by Pat Shipp Lieb, 57-60

With your name on my sweater
I walked across the Arkansas viaduct
wind blowing my skirt like a parachute.

We rode December nights in convertibles;
hung out on the boat docks at Lake Texarkana
until Robert Earl dropped our car keys in the dam water;
we ended up stranded for hours.
(Then entered AHS with cigarette smoke on our breaths).

I come back, sit on Dad’s back porch,
reminisce, and listen to the cows bellow.

(For Sharon)

The night in your back yard I lay under the arbor,
juice dripping down my throat from those sweet purple grapes,
we whispered, listened to laughter: adults partying at my house.

On the red-gravel road before sunrise,
a full white moon made shadows of two teen girls
in bobbysocks and jeans.
We kicked rocks, giggled, crossing College Hill to Carolyn’s house,
(her brother Albert was the one we really wanted to see) then back.

Our mothers screamed.
Crushed our hearts like their cigarette butts.
Said they’d looked for us everywhere.
Found we had slept at neither your house nor mine.
They never believed we had in such innocence
slept the night under the grapevines.


We had just driven into Charcoal’s,
pooled our dimes, ordered the usual Friday night Cokes
(Each drink cost a dime, you know; in 1959, a cup of ice, a nickel.)
We just hung out there. Waited for nothing particular.
Watched the road.
Then a long white Chevy full of loud-mouthed kids
from somewhere in Texas flashed by,
crossed the yellow line, ran the red light,
rolled up that yellow Volkswagen
‘till it smoked and smelled alot like Charcoal’s grill.

Judy was thrown out. I can still see her lying there, her red-checked shirt knotted around her neck,
spitting blood and crying to Tim:
Honey, I don’t want my teeth messed up.


I emptied the box of blue Faultless Starch
into the big pan and stirred the water round and round
while it heated on the four-legged stove
and got thick, thicker, until it was like paste.
And when it cooled, just a little, I put the petticoats in,
pulled them up, squashed them down again,
and with both hands packed the heavy starch
into ever mesh thread, squeezed lightly,
lightly, then hung them dipping from the closeline--
a parallel rainbow.


I will never forget how I slaved on that child-care book.
Six weeks and eighty-three pages of chicken pox,
jump ropes, baby-sitting, bad tempers, cotton swabs, peanut butter.
Cutting pictures from “Good Housekeeping”
and “Parents Magazine”
until my fingers bore grooves of tiny rivers.

What a project! What a fantastic accomplishment!
My book was good. Deserved more than the B you graded it.
I knew.

And now, Mrs. Clark, here’s my message to you:
Remember the book Sherry turned in the very next year--
the text you showed off to all the other teachers,
and autographed with your very best A?

Well, only the name was changed.

(For Jacky Ward)

The talent shows were the gymnasium
“Toast Of The Town,” with Skipper coming on like Elvis,
and the applause Carolyn got when she sang the song
her boyfriend Jewell had sung the year before.
(Yes, “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands”).
And of course, there was Gloria dancing to “Lolly Pop Lolly Pop.”
And the cheerleaders did the “chorus- girls” thing.
There was the kid with the guitar and the loud voice,
the tenth-grader who sang “Young Love” like Sonny James
at those Spring Lake Park dances-- Jacky Ward,
surely he’d be a star-- someday


We outgrew trick-or-treat,
borrowed Dad’s truck
for a quick drag through Lee’s and Lacey’s, (what a lie!)
howled instead at the quarter moon
while Elvis blasted country miles.

Hadn’t really planned that stop,
green peaches give me hives,
loaded our shirttails anyway, then ran giggling,
ripping jeans on barbed-wire.
We drove like hell from Wooten’s orchard, dodging cockeyes.

Poetry courtesy © Pat Shipp Lieb

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