Rogers and Me by Connolly Ryan

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”
― Fred Rogers

Whenever I put on my sneakers, I am
Mr. Rogers putting on his sneakers.
His fluent muscle memories
are my muscle’s genesis.
Yesterday I rode my bike
through a walking path
and moved at an almost
senescent velocity: not wanting
to miss a single beatific detail
of vegetation as I levitated
(with wheels attached)
through the porous floral forest.

In my twenties and early thirties,
I’d career through these same woods
at breakneck speed, thrashing the path
and gleefully startling walkers
as an adrenalized additive
to my unpetering torque..
But now, in my doting forties,
I notice I am crawling along at a clip
more ‘break bread’ than break-neck:
communal in my mellowing,
clocking in at just under
an 80 year olds’ smile-per-hour,
grinning as puttering joggers
quietly overtake me.

And today, my resting vessel
nestled on a cypress bench,
I listen to the wing-flap
of sprinklers in the distance,
and gaze in vague recognition
at the athletic lawn they water.
When out of the blue,
surrounded by green,
I find myself sighing with the kind
of exquisite universal resignation
that Mr. Rogers would reserve
for when King Friday VIII
or Queen Sara Saturday
in the Neighborhood Of Make-Believe
quarreled about cakes or crowns
or perhaps an unspoken jealousy
of the tranquility and unassuming
jazz-like determination
with which Trolley
always tackled the tracks
just ahead and behind him.

Connolly Ryan is currently a professor of literature at University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he was thrice a finalist for the Distinguished Teaching Award. His poetry has been published in various journals including BateauDitchUmbrella, and Citron.

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