Summer sun shining through the canopy, ecology background
Under the Arch of Elms
by Marilyn Zelke-Windau

The breeze would float elm leaves
like the little oval pancakes
we hoped for each Saturday morning
venturing out on a heat buttered griddle.

We’d lie on the grass in the front yard,
count as many as we knew numbers,
think of the serrated knife,
the bread knife,
try to slice pebbles
with elm leaves.

Summer heat trapped the upstairs
of a Chicago bungalow,
made us tired-cry
to sleep out under the arch
of elms.

We pedaled trikes, bikes
in their safe tunnel,
played hopscotch,
four-square, concentration
in the street
of their protection.

Summer green to fall yellow,
we blanketed our dollies
with elm warmth.
November gone, March emerged.
We followed their pattern
and grew, too.

I packed a suitcase
within their shadows,
moved my childhood to the suburbs,
heard they were ill.
Their dying did not open the sky.
Their dying did not open their limb-arms.
Their dying only offered emptiness, youth gone,
a grave under the arch of my elms.

PHOTO: “Elm leaves” by ST8, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Traveling back to a childhood home, on a street now empty of trees, was like going to a funeral. Gone were the beautiful elms of my childhood, their lives taken by Dutch elm disease. Gone also was my youth, but not my memories of it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marilyn Zelke-Windau is a Wisconsin poet and a former elementary school art teacher. She enjoys painting with words. Her poems have appeared in many printed and online venues including Verse Wisconsin, Stoneboat, Your Daily Poem, Midwest Prairie Review, and several anthologies. Her chapbook Adventures in Paradise (Finishing Line Press) and a full-length manuscript, Momentary Ordinary (Pebblebrook Press), were both published in 2014. She adds her maiden name when she writes to honor her father, who was also a writer.