Oh, Roger Jones! Oh, Roger Jones!
Oh, Prince! O, Knight! Ah me!
We used to play at keeping house,
Beneath am old oak tree.
--Nathalia Crane 1924
The day you asked me if I wanted to play marbles
in your yard
(a game for “keepsies,” you said)
I had just returned from a party,
wore a Swiss dot dress my mother had sewn by hand,
cut from a pair of old curtains.
You dug a cup-sized hole in the ground,
we drew a circle around it,
picked pebbles from the dust.
We each had a bag of marbles,
started to roll.
Some days you’re on,
some days not.
Kneeling in the hot sun, knuckling down,
knocking one aggie after another into the hole,
until you only had your lucky red shooter left;
an off-round, cranberry red cat’s-eye
which looked magical gleaming in the palm of your hand—
when it was over
I pulled the draw-strings tight,
the denim bag bulging.
“Hey! Give ‘em back!” you said,
your words heavy and precise.
“I will not!” (I drew the strings tighter.)
“It wasn’t for ‘keepsies!’ It was ‘funsies!’ Give ‘em back!”
You yelled, your face red, eyes full
of the sting of tears.
“Give ‘em back, or get out of my yard!” your voice low now,
hatred rising from a cup-sized hole.
I left, your words filling the afternoon air behind me—
“Don’t come back…EVER!”
I suppose here, I should show some compassion,
say I gave back his marbles,
or at least his Christmas-red shooter,
but I didn’t—
knowing he wouldn’t have given mine
back to me.
Feeling good in a clean win,
I tossed those marbles all over my bed that night,
set the red cat’s-eye carefully on the sill.