Olly Olly Oxen Free - Annette, August 15


Olly Olly Oxen Free

As Baby Boomer kids

we played Robin Hood in the trees across the

street, along the road to the insane asylum

(now, a health care center).

We felt adventurous, avoided the wandering patients;

some shouted at the air while working the huge garden.

The rumors scared us —

these guys would grab you, stuff you in a gunny sack,

roll you down the riverbank into the lake--

at least that’s what my big brother and his friends told us.

We trampled those dirt paths down that

riverbank to the lake, poked sticks in the water,

caught frogs; pretended we were explorers.

We played along Lillie Street, acting out

plays we made up in the wooden gazebo on Zirbel’s Point.

We climbed into the rafters, to watch bats sleeping,

and brushed spiders out of our hair,

screaming through the cobwebs.

We braided long silk scarves together, pinned them

to the back of our short summer haircuts

like National Velvet; riding our bikes,

which we said were horses,

along paths we made in the open field.

We rushed through dinner,

ran back outside for games,

“Red Light, Green Light,”

SPUD, and Freeze tag.

As it grew dark my mother blew

the whistle three times

to come home,

as the street lights came on.

Olly, Olly, oxen free!


my concerns--

  • I looked up the title--it can be "olly olly oxen free" or "olly olly all in free."
  • Is it a prose poem? I could make the lines run together in a block.
  • I get too wordy, trying to tell a story.
  • Should I shorten it?
  • Do I "give away" too much--it's a mostly transparent piece.
  • I was thinking of sending this to Midwest Prairie Review