October Picnic Long Ago

“Yassuh, here ‘tis,”Bumbo said, handing reins to the mister.
Fixed hampers and blankets behind and strapped them tight.
Helped my mother up in the surrey, passed the baby to her.
While I, six years old, kept my little sister aright.
And over us all, like a flood, poured the golden October light.
Out of town, clop-clop, till we found a side lane that led
Into woods, where gold leaves flickered in shadow with light
That changed the known shape of a nose or face or head
Till we looked like a passel of circus freaks crammed tight
On four wheels, and the flickering nag steered by a witch’s sleight.
To a stream we came, and well tossed by stones, made crossing.
And there it was—as we might have knowm Father’d known:
A grass circle, and off by a boulder, a spring,
All ready for blankets, and a crude fireplace of stone.
Then quick as a wink, the horse unhitched, the big children gone.
All predictable, sure—a Sunday picnic like ahy
Of that old time when the stable rented an outfit.
That being before the auto had come, or many.
My mother’s skirt was blue serge, long and close-fit.
My father had suede shoes buttoned up high, and a Norfolk jacket
All predictable—lunch, the baby asleep, children gone,
And Father and Mother had tiptoed away, hand in hand,
Heads together as though in one long close conversation
That even now I can’t think has had an end—
Underground or perhaps in some floating, high, dreamy, sunlit land.
But picnics have ends, and just as the sun set,
My mother cried out: “How beautiful can a place be!”
And my father said: “My ship will come in yet,
And I’ll show you all the world’s beautiful things to see.
“What more could I want,” she cried, “when I love everything I now see?'
So she swung up the baby against the rose-tinted sky.
And a bird-note burst from her throat like a song, and she sang
As we clop-clopped along the lane, and the shadows, sly,
Leashed the future up, like a hound with slavering fang.
But sleepy, I didn’t know what a future was, as she sang.