Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Eastside Boys, We Ran” by Ron Wallace. Mr. Wallace is an Oklahoma native of Scots-Irish, Choctaw, Cherokee, and Osage ancestry and is the author of seven volumes of poetry published by TJMF Publishing of Clarksville, Indiana. He is a three-time finalist in the Oklahoma Book Awards and a three-time winner of the Oklahoma Writers Federation Best Book of Poetry Award. His work has been recently featured in: Oklahoma Today, The Long Islander, Concho River Review, cybersoleil journal, Cobalt, Red Earth Review, Dragon Poets Review, Sugar Mule, Cross-timbers, Gris-Gris, Oklahoma Poems and Their Poets, and a number of other magazines and anthologies. For copies of his books, please visit www.RonWallacePoetry.com.
Eastside Boys, We Ran
Eastside boys, we ran;
we ran straight up Southeast Second
to Mississippi to Texas to Alabama and Arkansas,
over the Santa Fe tracks to the stop sign on East Main.
We ran down gravel roads
that cut across our neighborhood, and past the old cemetery.
We rolled under barbed wire into pasture grass
with no roads to follow
We ran from George Washington Elementary
to Roy Child’s Grocery Store;
we ran the bases and then back home
to widowed mothers and to moms who made us cookies
to fathers who drank too much,
and dads who taught us how to cast a fishing line
We ran from poverty that stalked its prey
on our side of the tracks,
from pasts that trapped us in seines like minnows
in a shallow creek.
We ran from ghosts and self-fulfilling prophecies,
but never once from a fight.
We ran into the record books,
and we ran into the law,
to God, the Army and college
we ran into the world and into our lives;
Eastside boys, we ran
some of us are running still,
running out of time and out of space,
but running all the same into the fire and out of the flames
of a long-gone neighborhood.
faster than the rest.
Poet’s Notes: "Eastside Boys, We Ran" is largely autobiographical. I was born the son of a cop in a small Oklahoma town, Durant, and raised on the wrong side of those tracks in the poem. And my friends and I did run. We covered the ground in daily adventures not realizing for years why many of our roads were dirt and gravel and those across the tracks were paved. We had to be better than the rest to rise, so we ran on into lives of wide variety; some of us rose above the confinements of the poor, but most succumbed to it in one form or another.
For me after years of carrying a chip on my shoulder, I grew to see how that upbringing made me into the man I had become, how the near poverty for me and absolute poverty of others shaped my world views and drove me to be better and care for those who tried to rise but did not. I am proud that in my little town, still with boundaries delineated by those same tracks like many other small towns, I can't read my work without this poem being requested by someone in the audience.
Editor’s Note: I enjoy the rhythm of this poem--song-like, complete with a refrain--and the way the metaphors enhance the gritty sentiment of the theme. TJMF Publishing of Clarksville, Indiana published “Eastside Boys” in Cowboys and Cantos December 2013.