Thanks for the lovely replies. I think I've got it figured out. Please bear with me just a little longer.
I'm going to Knit 53 sts (this is working what will end up being the poncho's back side)
Join a 2nd ball of yarn, leaving first ball to rest for now, and decrease one stitch, knit to end (this will become poncho's front)
Working both sides at same time, work 1 row even.
Q: Does above mean to just perl (as the next row is WS) but to leave the center area where I decreased and began working with 2 balls of yarn alone? (which I guess will end up being the neck opening)
Now, next row is RS, a knit row. It states to REP neck dec for front on next 2 RS rows... This will take me from the original 53 sts on poncho's front, down to 50.
Pattern does not tell me to decrease on the back side but to keep at 53 sts.
More confusion with the next:
Work even until neck opening is 7 1/2".
Q: Do I just go back to original Knit one row, perl the next, without any decreases? And by 7 1/2", I take it that means when the center slit made from working 2 separate balls of yarn is 7 1/2" long?
Sorry to seem so dense but I've only ever worked Berroco patterns and they really spell every little thing out for a novice,, ding-dong like me.
Your help is saving me and I can't thank ya'll enough!