Daily Archives: January 30, 2015

Richmond Explodes

I shouldn’t have known
the things I did before
when mother wasn’t looking
and father doing his chores.
Chores, chores, work away
Mr. station wagon man –
stacking limbs and eyeballs
and feet and hands –
stuff them in – if you can –
“Not discreet, not discreet!”
cried the paper man – who
didn’t know his own toes
were on fire – smoking –
smoking – dying on his own
time…  Fading away from
a day – just a day – any
day when feet and hands
and golf balls fall from the sky…
“Not discreet to leave them in the street!”
as the paperman hacked his own words away,
his soul chasing after…
Station wagon blue, station wagon blue,
what to do? what to do?
with arms and legs from gunpowder kegs?
To the morgue, station wagon man,
We’ll sort them out later.
Later, later, I touched Tammy
Newton’s boob in old station wagon blue.
It was still attached.  She
said she liked it.  She didn’t know
her grandmother’s arm had been there
before mine.  But father did.
I shouldn’t have known
the things I did before.

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© 2015 John Allen Richter
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Poet’s Notes about The Poem

At 1: 47 p.m., early afternoon on a cool sunny day, beautiful Saturday, April 6th,1968, four linear blocks of the downtown area of my hometown, Richmond, Indiana, exploded violently. I was 9 years old. There were hundreds of people downtown at the time. My father and godfather were headed downtown also in dad’s 1965 White Ford Country Squire station wagon with blue interior. But they were still six or seven blocks away when the explosion occurred. Dad said he felt his car slide sideways about 10 feet by the blast. Dad drove to the melee just as the fire trucks were arriving. They commandeered both he and his station wagon to carry the wounded to the hospital. Most of the four block main street was a complete crater, caused by an underground gas pipe exploding. A secondary explosion occurred at Martin Arms, a gun and sports store that kept several barrels of gunpowder in their basement. Forty one people were killed. Most of the wounded were ambulatory, I think, so dad’s car became a repository for body parts to be later identified at the morgue.

That’s the same station wagon we seven kids would ride in during our biweekly trips to grandparents in Indianapolis. There was a girl in this story but her name was not ‘Tammy.’ I changed it to protect her innocence. And I don’t remember if the ‘boob’ incident was before or after the explosion, but think probably before. I was only seven at that time if I remember correctly. She was a close friend of sister Sue and often ‘slept over’ at our home. One day as she walked past my bedroom she saw me sleeping in only my tighty-whities – which is pretty much how I still sleep today. But she teased me about it incessantly and I just hated that! It seemed so embarrassing. I didn’t want a girl seeing me in my underwear! So one time she came with us on our trip to Indianapolis. After a long visit she and Sue declared that they would sleep in the back of the station wagon on the way home – which is where we little ones were stationed. So here was my chance! After the four others in the back had all fallen asleep – in the dark night listening to the hum of the tires on the pavement – I moved toward ‘Tammy’ and slid my hand and arm very slowly up her shirt. I thought that if I could squeeze her breast and wake her up then she would be embarrassed and never tease me again. Unfortunately after i moved my arm and hand over her soft, smooth, warm skin and tummy, and cupped her breast in my hand, something came over me and suddenly I decided not to go through with it. I didn’t understand it at the time, of course, i was only seven, but I knew enough that I would never want to embarrass, or hurt anyone who made me feel like I just felt that dark night in the back of that wagon. Weeks later she teased me again and I just blurted it out: ‘I squeezed your boob when we went to Indianapolis! ‘ She didn’t look shocked at all. In fact she put her hand on my shoulder and said ‘I know. That was nice.’ She never teased me again. Women. After all these years i still don’t understand them. And I don’t think she lost any relatives in the explosion. She remains just one of the many women I have come to love during my trek through this life. If you ever read this, ‘Tammy, ‘ wherever you are now, I thought it was nice too. Thank you for visiting.