In search of story

January 19.23: Coping, but barely


If you were light

and could play on a rose,

would you slide,

do you suppose,

down velvet hill,

where shadow splash

marks your soft plop

with grinned panache?

Then would you climb back up,

find that shy frill,

and pirouette there

in lucent trill?

Would you leap tip-to-tip

with weightless toes,

like drunken sprite

in perfumed throes?

Under, behind

each vale and peak,

would you dodge and dive

in hide-and-seek?

Would you stop perhaps

and oly-oly-ocean-free

to bask in the stillness

of unfurling reverie?


There is mystery here, dear reader. Apparently some call “olly-olly-oxen-free.” I was intrigued to see that some people who were kids in the Chicago area called “oly-oly-ocean-free” because that’s where I was a kid and that was our cry. So, oxen or ocean, nobody knows, though I did like the suggestion that olly/oly came from all-ye as a call at the end of the farm day to put everything, including the oxen, away for the night.

I remember it as inviolable. Once called, nobody could be tagged. Non-negotiable.


Many thanks to Susan Rushton for the beautiful photo!


29 thoughts on “January 19.23: Coping, but barely

  1. A soft plop, the velvet hill…I think your muse has returned. Wonderful words that tickle the imagination, Maureen.

  2. Such a beautiful poem, lovely and playful!

  3. Yes!!! To all the questions in your poem! Lois is right…your muse has returned and is in fine form. This is fun and whimsical Maureen. Makes me remember all those childhood games we played outside in the boiling sun or freezing cold. Wearing fireflies on our fingers for rings until they flew away. Eaten alive by mosquitoes! But we didn’t have to go in until the street lights went on, so we stayed out and played. I remember these childhood friends from so long ago.

    I never understood then what a treat and privilege it was to be able to hoot and holler and laugh out loud with the other kids on my block, having a grand time. We interacted head on instead of shutting ourselves inside and texting like today. That was truly a magical time!

    For us it was “oly-oly home free”. 🥴

    • Oly-oly home free! There’s a new one on me, but good to know. I bet it was as strictly enforced as ours was. I too think back to playing outdoors. I was a real klutz, so it’s not as though I was out there engaging in sports, but then most kids didn’t. We just PLAYED. Thanks for remembering the past with me, Ginger!

    • There is a group of kids at the end of our street who play outside. When I see them in the road, with a hokey net or a basketball, I stop, turn around and go to the other end of the street. I can’t bring myself to make them move.

  4. “Olly-olly oxen free’ up here in the Northeast. 🙂 Love the rose, love the words, love the conversation. Thursday must be your day, Maureen. 🙂

    • Maybe you’re right — maybe Dan’s doors help me find some words on Thursdays! Susan’s rose helped too. This dismal January has not been all that cold, but it sure has been bleak, and this rose really was all the more beautiful for the contrast. So it’s oxen up there. I wonder if kids still use it; they might be too sophisticated these days, but I hope not.

  5. I love your description of the sun on the rose. You captured the exact movement I would expect to see. As for ocean/oxen, I recall ‘oxen’ but ‘ocean’ works just as well.

  6. If the light is playing tag, the rose seems happy to be caught. Perhaps the rose version is to call out oly-oly-fall-on-me – that would work for bees and butterflies too.

    • Oh, it would indeed! Yes, that is one happy rose, and I’d not be surprised if the bees and butterflies were hovering off-camera waiting their chance to play. “Taking turns,” you know.

  7. Maureen, are you paying attention to what you and your muse started here? I can’t tell you how much fun it is to read all the comments. I swear you and Dan grew up with the same parents as me!

    How many times did you hear, “ Don’t be sneaking anything to eat. You’ll spoil your supper”?

    When you make a comeback from a writer’s slump, you sure do it in style. 🤙

    • Thank you, Ginger! Yes, I’ve been laughing here at all the memory-jogs! It does seem as though our parents played the same recorded messages! My mother all but dug a moat around the refrigerator to keep us from eating before dinner!

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