HONOR SCROLL POET
William H. Wallace, Jr.

TOOTHPICKS AND PRAIRIE FLOWERS

Before dental floss, I remember my grandfather,
Pompom, digging in his teeth after every meal
with wooden toothpicks, preferring round ones
to flat ones, keeping his choppers in good working
order. Divorced from my grandmother, Gonga,
going about his business until he forgot what it was,
where he was, or even who he was. Dad brought
him home for a while but he was unhappy living
with strangers, calling me Tommy when my name
was Billy. Went into same rest home as Gonga,
not recognizing her even when he stood in her door-
way in his shorts one morning talking about wanting
to smoke a cigar. But even after we told her he’d
never recognized her, Gonga still fretted about him
being there, saying, “That man just stood there talking
about smoking because he knows I hate the smell—
that’s why I divorced him.” Even as a kid, I knew
that wasn’t the real reason—but I knew we didn’t
talk about it. After three months wandering the pale
sage halls in sloppy slippers, looking for a smoke,
Pompom went to bed one night, forgetting to wake
up next morning. For a while, Gonga wasn’t sure he
was really gone, looking for him at her door, insisting
she could smell cigar smoke. Each day, she drifted,
slipping further away until one day we were all just
strangers standing at her door, and she was back in
her mind, a gingham girl on the homestead outside
Guthrie, Oklahoma, helping her father hitch-up the
horses to go to town. Three months later, Gonga died
in a buckboard wearing a sunbonnet, holding a handful
of wild prairie flowers.

William H. Wallace, Jr.       
Alta Loma, California
      

William H. Wallace, Jr., 67, of Alta Loma, California is a retired teacher with B.A. and M.A. degrees from Chapman University. He is a member of the California State Poetry Society and California Writers Club. In his daisy-shaped poem “Flower Fever” he asks: Do forget-me-nots/ Remember spring? His first novel is entitled Ghosts of Gordon Street. Book two is a work in progress. His sign is Capricorn.