The Old Wooden Heart
Driving past the Carnegie Apartments.
Listening to love songs on the car radio.
Sha la la....I love you...I do...I do
And then I remembered.
It was a day so long ago.
I was maybe ten years old.
Charlie and I rode our bikes to the library.
It was the old brown brick library.
Brick from the brickyard south of town.
Red tile roof.
It was a Carnegie Library.
I learned later about Andrew Carnegie.
But he helped build libraries all over the country.
So we would ride our bikes there.
Mine was a red Schwinn.
A one speed bike.
A basket and light hooked to the handle bars.
Charlie had a ten speed.
We would go to the library.
First we would go to the third floor museum.
Look at the old dugout canoe.
Look at the giant turtle shell.
Then we would look for some books.
Maybe "Old Yeller".
Maybe a book about tools.
Maybe a pirate book.
We would leave through the big wooden doors.
Then slide down the metal hand rail.
Walk back up the wide concrete steps.
Slide down again.
We decided to look under the steps.
We walked thru the sticker bushes.
I am sure that they have a real name.
But to us they were sticker bushes.
We jumped down into the wide concrete drain.
We crawled under the wire fence.
We were under the steps.
Dark and cool.
Full of leaves.
Some old empty booze bottles.
A couple of old brown boots.
Newspapers and trash.
A great secret place.
But so easy to get to.
A guy could hide there for a long time.
Maybe somebody did.
Then I saw something in the dry leaves.
I picked it up.
A small wooden heart.
Initials carved in it.
I showed it to Charlie.
We wondered if some bum had left it there.
It was old.
The metal loop on the top was rusted through.
I put it in my pocket.
We rode back up the hill.
I put the heart in my secret treasure cigar box.
Every once in awhile I would look at it.
Take it out and wonder who they were.
The lovers whose intials were carved into it.
What happened to them?
Then I would put it back in the cigar box.
Next to the Iron Cross.
Great uncle Oscar took it from a dead German.
Back during the Great War.
Years later I felt strange keeping the heart.
Keeping it locked up in that old cigar box.
Somehow it needed to be free.
Not lying next to the Iron Cross.
So I took it out of the box.
I drove down to the Missouri River.
Parked near the river bank.
Nice warm evening.
Walked down to the river.
Watched the water flowing south.
Heard the crickets singing evening songs.
Thought about the giant catfish still uncaught.
I looked at the old wooden heart.
Thought about the unknown to me lovers.
Wished a wish of undying love.
And tossed the heart into the swirling current.