When Johnny came marching
by A. Garnett Weiss
My sailor boy Johnny and me, we’d walk hand-in-hand down the block to the park where chestnuts fell, as polished as marbles.
Around the corner to the greengrocer where grandma picked pearl-skinned, new potatoes she’d smother in butter and feed me as I played in her big cellar.
Far along the road in grandpa’s Packard, up Grouse Mountain to picnic at the top of the world, till wasps and more wasps forced us to run and leave our sandwiches to them.
Where was Johnny? I looked for him under the car’s seats, in its trunk. I took tiny steps up and down the driveway, over the damp lawn. I even searched the coal bin. Twice.
I cried about him being alone, cold, without me. For days, I prayed he’d return.
Weeks later, we squeezed into the car to call on a friend for tea above a wide river valley. I wore my navy cotton dress with gold dots and patent party shoes.
Windows open, I sang to myself as we drove and drove till we reached the green cottage with red shutters and roses—white, yellow, pink—climbing everywhere.
In the garden, the smallest canvas chair with merry stripes waited for me. In case it might be tippy, I looked down as I sat, then gasped.
Under that chair lay my Johnny! I grabbed him, danced him around, held him tight all afternoon and as my eyes closed that night.
I still have Johnny, though he’s lost his beret and going bald. And only now, more than half a lifetime later, do I wonder whose magic brought him home.
PHOTO: Johnny today.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Always intrigued by subjects Silver Birch Press suggests for a series, I waken as though from a dream to write about experiences I had not thought of in many years. “When Johnny came marching,” the title taken in part from a war song, led me to recapture circumstances and details around the disappearance of my favourite doll when I was five and to situate that doll in my life today. I am grateful for the prompt.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A. Garnett Weiss’s poetry, written using this pseudonym or in her own name, JC Sulzenko, has been featured on Arc Poetry Magazine’s Poem of the Year short list, in Vallum: Contemporary Poetry, in a number of Silver Birch Press series and in the press’s 2016 Nancy Drew Anthology and 2015 chapbook anthology, Ides, in which she’s the only Canadian. In July 2016, she curated “Ekphrasis at Blizzmax ,”a month-long showcase of collaborations between 9 poets and 9 artists in Prince Edward County. Three of her centos took top honours in The Bannister’s October 2016 anthology. In November 2016, The Light Ekphrastic paired Weiss with Maryland artist Gina Pierleoni. She serves on the selection board for Bywords and as inaugural curator for The Glebe Report’s “Poetry Quarter.”