Far Away Friends

(a fable for children and others)
for Ellie

“A king—long years ago,
When nights were long and dark
And forests thick and dangers oh!
So dangerous—lost his spark,

Lost his remarkable spark
Of joy. A meadowlark . . .”

Part One: In Search of Meadowlarks

Catherine had a friend.
Her friend was Emma May.
They liked to dress up and pretend
To travel far away.

In a world far away,
They’d tramp all over and play.

The world they visited
Shone blue and white and green,
All sky and clouds high overhead,
The prettiest trees they’d seen—

Trees taller than they’d seen,
Some small, some in-between.

They put on winter boots.
They wore pink baseball caps.
Old sheets they made new parachutes.
They drew and colored maps.

They packed their chutes and maps
And threw in licorice snaps.

They climbed a maple tree
In Catherine’s backyard,
Then parachuted fearlessly
To earth and came down hard.

They’d hit the hard earth hard
And jump up quick, unscarred.

The day they first dropped in
To the far-off world they’d found,
“Be quiet here,” said Catherine.
“Try not to make a sound.

Meadowlarks don’t like sound—
People-sound.” Emma frowned.

Part Two: The Once Sad King

“Wouldn’t you like to hear
A meadowlark? They sing
And make your problems disappear.
I read about a king . . .
A kind but a sad king . . .”
Was Emma listening?

Catherine plunged ahead.
They walked in single file.
“This weather’s sweaty,” Emma said.
“Why don’t we rest awhile?

Let’s sit and talk awhile.”
Which made Catherine smile.

Catherine picked up the story:
“A king rode on his way,
Heading for home, so sick with worry
He thought he’d better pray

And tried—but couldn’t pray.
He couldn’t think what to say.

Then, out of the blue, a song!
A meadowlark sang trills.
The king forgot all that was wrong.
He stopped his horse—felt chills.

It must have been those chills!—
Weeds bloomed like daffodils.”

Part Three: Meadowlarks Bide Their Time

Like a long, slow freight train,
The summer days clicked by.
One night there came a pouring rain,
And lightning lit the sky;

Thunder crashed in the sky.
Catherine didn’t cry.

Catherine didn’t cry.
The rain, though, sounded sad.
Already it was late July.
She and her mom and dad

Were moving, and her dad
Kept packing things like mad.

The girls couldn’t help but go
More often now in case
A meadowlark might sing, might show
Itself, at least a trace—

A few high notes, some trace!—
There in that secret place.

“I’m feeling kind of sad,”
Said Catherine as they stared
Up at a tree. They hadn’t had
Much luck. “I’m feeling scared.”

“Even I’m a little scared
And sad,” Emma declared.

Emma strolled thoughtfully.
Catherine lagged behind.
Beauty flared out from every tree,
But some gifts are harder to find.

Some gifts take time to find.
Some can’t be found but find.

Part Four: An Ending and a Beginning

“Where have the meadowlarks gone?”
Catherine said one day—
They were sitting, studying maps,
Munching on licorice snaps—
The August day before the one
She wished were far away,

When she’d move far away
And Emma May would stay.

“Don’t cry,” said Emma. “I
Can come and visit you.
Meadowlarks sing somewhere, and I
Think they might visit too!

Waiting’s more fun with two—
We’ll wait until they do.”

Charles Hughes

Charles Hughes is the author of two poetry collections, The Evening Sky (forthcoming from Wiseblood Books in 2020) and Cave Art (Wiseblood Books 2014). His poems have appeared in the Alabama Literary Review, The Christian Century, the Iron Horse Literary Review, Literary Matters, Measure, the Saint Katherine Review, the Sewanee Theological Review, Think Journal, and elsewhere. He worked as a lawyer for thirty-three years before his retirement and lives with his wife in the Chicago area.

'Far Away Friends' has 1 comment

  1. April 28, 2022 @ 4:38 pm Cynthia Erlandson

    This is quite a lovely story. I hope you can find a good illustrator!


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