Like Bees After Blooms
Based on my poem “Dayton” in POETRY OHIO (1984)
Could have been my imagination. I was commuting to a Dayton high school at the time, so learning was on my mind. I’d also read a lot about the Wright brothers, and their bicycle shop was just 15 blocks from my classrooms. What was left of it then was vacant and dirty. Twenty years before, Greenfield Village had taken the main building north to restore it.
Why didn’t Daytonians save it themselves? Maybe they should have, but they seemed to have preserved something more important: the Wrights’ way of thinking.
I’d wander the streets, gaze through large showroom windows, browse inside the big stores, and everywhere I’d encounter people staring off as if rapt in a vision. I didn’t understand this phenomenon until one day a girl spun out of her father’s hand and ran around him as if she were flying. These people would look at pigeons, then flatten their arms into wings, splay out their legs, and take off.
There seemed to be poetry in these visions as well, the merging of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s and the Wright brothers’ inclinations. An old timer staring off the Main Street Bridge told me that the carp leaped in the Great Miami to test how their fins were evolving.
The first fairly nice day of the year, you’d see kites darting about on the skyline like bees after blooms.
In March, when stores sold out of the diamond and box varieties, homemade kites rode the strong winds, butcher paper or layers of newspaper flapping, dragging somewhat heavy rag tails. Kids were fascinated with things that flew.
Adults as well. At ball games, they’d study the arc, spiral and spin, then argue about the dynamics of curving. Clustered on street corners, around tables in kitchens, they’d speak in angry, awed tones of the hangar on base where the Air Force was hiding the bodies of little green men, killed on a mission from some other planet. The city had to put up signs to ban hang gliders from the tops of tall buildings. However, it also planted large eXes of flowers in parks, providing targets for sky divers.
Every Easter, families religiously gathered downtown by the river to witness hot air balloons swelling colored and bright with the dawn, lifting higher than the trees, soaring off like humanity’s grandest ideas.
In those old days, my childhood, the history of such thinking inspired many people. They approached things with wonder and hope. The improbable was in fact possible. No one scoffed at the dreamers who surveyed the space between the land and the sun, bicycles lying beside them, watching hawks wheel and hover at Pinnacle Hill.
about the author
Bill Vernon served in the United States Marine Corps, then studied English literature in Ohio universities and taught it. Writing is his therapy, along with exercising outdoors and doing international folk dances. His poems, stories and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, and Five Star Mysteries published his novel OLD TOWN in 2005.