I'm posting this on behalf of, and with the permission of "sipoet"
"You're talking forty years here. Now if you were talking yesterday, or
maybe last week, I could help you."
-Borough Hall Help Line
The Mosquito Man
He came. From a great distance
we could hear the motor, chugging
and as to the children of Hamelin,
the sound was strange music,
triggering emotions in our small bodies
we could not yet name.
It stirred us, quickened pulses and heartbeats,
until one of us telegraphed sotto voce so no adult could hear:
"The Mosquito Man."
Dropping colorforms, tonka toys and handfuls of green armies,
abandoning soup and crackers and Sandy Becker,
we fled our houses to follow his battered pickup
which was leading a pack of children from blocks away.
Up and down the street, doors flew open
and like ardent disciples, more children
spilled out on to the street
to join the host who reveled in the billowing mist
exploding from the Mosquito Man's contraption
rigged to the bed of his 1940s flatbed --
great atomizing god bestowing fragrant clouds
of heaven's fluff on believing followers:
skinned kneed, pony tailed, gap-toothed and drinking deeply.
We chased him, riding our bikes behind him
roller-skating or running in his wake with arms flailing, feet pumping
jockeying for the honored position:
the middle of the cloud
of insecticide ether.
With the summer sun obscured
by luminous silver clouds,
we became revelers on a strange planet;
it settled over us like a fine, gauze net
captured us and misted our hair,
our shirts. All the while we inhaled
and held our breaths as we ran:
lifted from the earth to the sky.
Chosen and transported by the Mosquito Man
and his compressor, buzzing, beckoning,
the hum of a million island mosquitoes
amplified in the compressor deliverer
and in this burst of summertime frenzy
we escaped the doldrums of a lazy
summer day on the South Shore of the island.
It was as if heaven descended upon
the pebble-packed pavement of Darlington Avenue
and like some Health Department Pied Piper,
The Mosquito Man with his wondrous contraptions
lured us with his exotic rhythms
and promises of momentary ethereal bliss.
Some children say the truck drove up by itself
for we never took note of the Mosquito Man
himself who was enshrouded in the silver cloud lining
engulfing his truck.
Yet, we followed and like tumbleweed,
gathered more children as we paraded by --
block after block, occasionally scolded by a mother,
wiping her hands on her apron
or somebody's grandpa warning us away
from the clouds -- dandelion puff balls of pesticide
that we tried to catch, to subsume,
in a quest for ethereal communion
both body and soul.
Finally, we arrived at the border of unfamiliar territory
and fell off of the train
to return to our own blocks
where the fog had dissipated
into a fine mist, then had settled
invisible now in the summer heat and sun.
As though he had never been there.
Unnoticed, the Mosquito Man stopped coming
when the woods were felled and the wetlands
pumped and filled
with thousands of concrete foundations.
Yet sometimes now, when I hear
a blimp approaching from the harbor,
I momentarily feel the Mosquito Man
seizing my body,
his alien gog suffusing my soul in conditioned response
to this similar sound.
Then, in rapt excitement I scream to my children,
"A blimp! A blimp!" They gape in astonishment
at the intensity of my reaction to the faraway
whirring: My eyes shining, face flushed,
body in a moment of transcendent paralysis,
until I pivot, race to the door, and leave them behind
in the bewilderment of their childhoods
bereft of the Mosquito Man.
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