Leaving Garden Court
by Ira Schaeffer

It was spring, when tulips
show their pretty colors
and robins make nests
for small blue eggs.
I was ten, feeling cozy
on the sofa, leafing through
Mad, when comic book violence
came alive.

Driven by another fierce defense
of some imagined line crossed,
my parents had attacked
our upstairs neighbors.
Shrieks and pounding
clashed up and down
our common hall.

Our door slammed shut.
I didn’t want to but saw
my mother’s scratched
face and arms,
my father dripping sweat
and his panting like a dog.
There was no place to hide.

For days, a strange quiet,
my parents were like ghosts.
A letter arrived,
then the cardboard boxes.
Books and jeans were packed
along with scars and ruin.
We were moving to a smaller flat.

On the way we passed a cemetery
with branches of dark trees
hanging above rows of stones.
I pictured myself underground
My stone said something sad;
most of the letters were faded.

After we got to the new place
I thought of surprising my parents
with something funny.
I crayoned a sign, making a blue
R.I.P., black for my name and dates
and red for birds in each corner.
I held the cardboard to my chest,
stretched out on the floor—
shut my eyes and waited.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age 10 in his 5th grade school portrait.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Violence was a constant in my family—I was a witness and unwanted recipient of brute force. Humor was my only defense—sometimes effectual, but mostly not. Anyway, I developed the ability to see the blow coming and get out of the way—fast!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ira Schaeffer, an active member of Ocean State Poets and a proud supporter of the Origami Poems Project, is the current recipient of the Editor’s Choice Loft Chapbook Award. In addition, Ira’s recent poetry has appeared in a variety of publications, including, Penumbra, On the Dark Side: An Anthology of Fairy Tale Poetry, Tastes like Pennies, 50 Haiku, and Wising Up Press. In addition, his poem Primavera was a 2014 nomination by The Origami Poems Project for the Pushcart Prize.