187. Playing

“Who will not bless the rank, uncomely weeds
That fill the untilled corners of the fence,
To furnish forth a banquet of dry seeds?”

“Isaac Bassett
Choke. I mean,
Choate.” They sat
By the shed.
He’d led Barker
To his secret
Place. “End of
Clue. You guess!”
                    TREE BIRD.
“Darn it,
Barker!”–and James
Tossed aside the card.
“Tree sparrow! That’s
Right!”
                    ‘WINTER
                    BIRD, AND LARGE….’
“I’ll be darned!”–he’d
Memorized the clues!–“I
Warn you, Barker,
Play so good, and
Kids won’t play with you!”
                    I KNOW. YOU
                    ONLY I BEAT I.

But James
Missed that message,
Studying the cards. “Say,
Ones who write
The rhymes, their names are
Things. See?
Isaac Bassett–
Bassett is some
Hound.” Since he was
Losing, James thought
Now was time to
Quit. James flipped all
Through the deck. “See?
J.T. Trowbridge:
Bridge.” James glanced
Slyly up at Barker: could he
Guess this card?
“Barker! Wood peewee:
‘Ivory pale its
Wings were–‘”
                    ‘BARRED.’
“‘And its dark eyes, tender–‘”
                    ‘STARRED.’

James smiled in
Disgust. He shook his
Head. “You just
Guessed it from
The rhyme.” Barker,
Quizzical. “Here’s
Edward Sill:
Windowsill. Try this–”
Barker still might
Miss–“by H.
Thoreau, a bird song:
Sounds like ‘Drop it,
Pull it up, pull it up!'”
                    BROWN THRASHER.
For “thrasher,” Barker
Thrashed. They laughed.
James then eyed
The card. “Thoreau,” he muttered,
“Silly name. He
Wrote another–”
James produced it–
“Vireo:
‘During those trivial summer days,
Striving to lift our–
Thoughts–above the street.'”
James frowned:
But why leave
The street? All worthwhile
Things were there–
Dry-goods store with
Licorice, and
Vacant lots with
Games of baseball,
Tag.

                    THOREAU,
                    NOT THING HE.
“Tag! You’re
It!” And James punched
Barker’s arm:
“You’re it! Catch me!”
They dashed from
The yard, dust puffing
From their feet.

Then they chased each
Other, doubling back
And dodging, scaling
Chickenwire,
Running taunting
Zigzags, shrieking
Fear and glee.
Their folks would call
Later. But not
Now.

Sudden shadow.
And above their
Game appeared one
Thunderhead:
Dome of black slowed
Stoutly in the sky.
All suspended.
Branches paused. Air
Chilled.
Lightning flickered
In deep crevices.

Far distant
Thunder. Then
The wind: cloud
Passed them by.

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