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Barbara Brown Koons

Barbara Brown Koons (1935-2021) was the oldest daughter of Ann and Scott Brown.  She came of age in Mansfield in the aftermath of the Depression and WWII.   When she was 20 years old she left Mansfield to attend the Northwestern School of  Journalism.  She spent most of the rest of her life in Indianapolis.

Barbara Koons was a writer and a poet. As an adult, the Soda Shop and her Mansfield childhood were constant silent companions for her and a consistent theme in her writing.  She published a single book of poetry, Night Highway, 2004.  She published frequently in midwestern poetry magazines.



"The house was a high, white, Victorian bride, scrolls and swirls, spindles and gingerbread, with a white veranda that swept around two sides like a full tiered wedding gown. It stood triumphant on the green carpet of summer, all lace and celebration, wreathed in sunlight, and roses, and bees humming in honeysuckle."

Barbara Koons, describing Hugh and Nora's house above the Soda Shop

-from Tears, Prayers, and Chocolate Sodas (1986)

hugh and noras house.jpg

Hugh and Nora's house above the Soda Shop


Barbara Brown Koons

In Night Highway (2004)

My father caged paper lions 

with matchstick bars;

folded, pasted, painted, strung

a toothpick trapeze from a fishing line;

and The Greatest Show On Earth 

paraded across our dining-room floor

into a tablecloth tent;

marching to brass razz-ma-tazz

only we could hear.


Our small ringmaster

in his red-crayon jacket

eventually disappeared

into the vacuum cleaner

along with several monkeys and a clown;

our elephants were overcome

by the roaring wind of its maw,



until today, with my own children

seated in a steel arena

higher than a trapeze glides-

far below, a ringmaster

with my father’s eyes 

snaps a whip-crack recognition.


My cardboard circus shimmers

in white-striped zebra light,

flashing me back,

back into a dusty tent

billowing luminous as a balloon,

with tigers bursting red

through orange paper fire;

drums, trumpets, dancing clowns,

popcorn, peanuts, souvenirs—


The ringmaster bows

with my father’s smile, tells me,

“Take your circus home with you,

tucked into a secret pocket,

slide your childhood tongue around it,

taste glitter, grit and straw.

It’s your chameleon, green and fleeting;

your pink and peacock feather bird,

singing in a yellow wind, 

a purple pasteboard sky.”


Scott Brown (1909-1982)

The Clockmaker’s Daughter

Barbara Brown Koons

In Night Highway (2004)

Beyond the counter where I stand

the door into the workroom frames

her portrait like a small Renoir

her face, the focal point of light,

eyes steady blue beneath the blonde

hair falling smooth upon a white

blouse, its collar edged in lace.

Perched forward, she leans toward

her father’s hands, her hands clasped.

She’s tucked one foot beneath her,

the other, in a pink sock, swings free.


I have brought in the antique clock

from my grandfather’s pharmacy.

It lies before the clock-maker

it’s hands and face removed.  I watch

the child’s eyes follow her father’s hands

as he probes into brass and steel.

The image of the two of them

intent among the rosewood tones

and shadows of mahogany,

turns in my mind an old key

unlocking a familiar door-


Where Grandfather halves a tulip bulb

To show me how the flower hides,

It isn’t there when parchment

layers fall away.  My clock

begins its slow tick tock,

blending into other clocks,

like water running slow as melting snow.

I see the suns and moons revolve in unison, and understand

the click of memory that stops within another time and place


And then swings on.  I am

still there, in the pharmacy,

With its tall rows of wooden drawers,

Medicinal odors of peppermint,

camphor, cloves, cod-liver oil-

still the child who sits

beside her grandfather at work,

perched on a stool, breathing in

the scents of his mysterious trade-


and at the same time, I am here,

part of today, in this small shop

where my memory swings, like her foot,

back and forth, back and forth.

soda shop clock.jpg

The Soda Shop Clock

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