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OLLY OLLY IN COME FREE - Lesley-Anne Evans

OLLY OLLY IN COME FREE - Lesley-Anne Evans

A Poem for The Porch by Lesley-Anne Evans

It is 1971; a suburban summer where
after supper seems to stretch to everlasting.
My brothers and I are unleashed
and running toward what we do not know,
what we have not yet learned to pray.

We are a neighborhood gang
of boys and girls just starting
to sense the difference. We hold a little
too tight
in pickup football, hide and seek
kisses with fingers crossed in hopes
the street lights don’t come on too soon.

The games have begun, sure enough. They come
tripping over the edge of innocence,
like Avon masks the smell of my first puff
on a rolled leaf cigarette,
like mascara coats my lashes though mom says
I look like two holes burned in a white sheet.

This is when presence needs no practice.
This is the headiness of dusk light,
a shadowed shrub, and a neighbor boy
who waits breathless beside me,
but doesn’t kiss me, yet.
What happens next must be a dream, not of the almost kiss,
or the boy, but of a voice cloaked in darkness
calling out to us. Do you remember it like I do?

This is a memory of a dream I didn’t know I had,
an echo carried through the wilderness of my childhood
in a voice I am just learning to believe;

Olly olly in come free, all who are out, come in.

You, with blue jeans stained and torn from kneeling,
head crowned with bits of goldenrod and sage,
bring your brother, your lover, each piece of heaviness,

and come.

The game is of your own design; there are no penalties
or just rewards. Lights are lit on these familiar streets,
and all is well. Leave your hiding place,

come home.

Olly olly in come free, all who are out, come in.

Lesley-Anne Evans is a Belfast born poet whose work celebrates the sacred ordinary. We’re delighted that she’s part of the Porch community. You can read more in our magazine, a slow conversation about beautiful and difficult things, at this link.

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