Delicate white flowers grow along the bike path under a slice of blue and cloudless sky. I will take a bit of this wildness home and plant it in my back yard, to tame my tendency to salve my wants, my everpresent search for the Everything–nay the One Thing I seek–with dollars and cents.
Dissatisfactions stirred like a pitcher of lemonade swirled with a long whirling spoon, a plastic red ball on top like a maraschino cherry.
I find I am in a flurry, rushing here and there, going nowhere, chasing myself about until I’ve forgotten the purpose and the meaning.
Each of us in quest of the same thing clothed in various costume: To love and be loved in spite of everything. To have the courage to stand where we are and take a chance and bloom, exposing our full faces to the world.
My white magnolia blooms cup the snow,
unexpected and cruel,
destroying the blossoms I’ve waited all year to see.
I walk down the muddy stream bank,
dip my toe into the bracken water.
But the day is fine and clear and I
scramble up the other side and continue towards campus
where a boy in rust-colored pants and
bright red tennis shoes carries an overstuffed
backpack and a cardboard coffee cup.
Magnolia blossoms weep snowmelt.
Fragile petals glisten in the sunshine and I can’t
how beautiful life is.
“What’s that sound?” Cari’s eyes widened.
William took a kind of pleasure in knowing something his granddaughter did not, this child of the city, this child of gleaming buildings and pavement and subway trains. “Woodland chorus frogs.” He paused, listening. “Grey tree frogs. Spring peepers.” He watched her looking around and felt himself filled with love for a child he barely knew. “Look there.” He pointed to a rotting log where a line of turtles sunned themselves before slipping into the water at their approach.
Cari’s yellow boots were smeared with mud. The hem of the dress she’d insisted upon wearing was black. She’d lost the ribbon he’d tied into her hair after breakfast. “You look just like your momma, when she was a kid.” Continue reading
To the college kid, who came into the bank yesterday at noon
striding up to the teller window, all smiles and confidence,
digging your wallet from the back pocket of your tan pants
with the cuffs rolled up just so,
telling the woman behind the counter
I admit it. I cannot manage my money,
asking for a hundred bucks in cash:
You wondered derisively what was playing on the radio,
a child’s plastic radio, yellow and red, angled into a corner,
a radio outgrown and left behind, exchanged, perhaps, for an iPhone
tucked in a pocket.
The teller laughed uncomfortably,
and so did the woman who sat at her desk before me,
staring at the computer screen.
Moments before you came into the bank,
she was talking with me about the high cost of college education
and her hopes
for a scholarship for her daughter.
You went on to say that the music is throw-back eighties, and that
all you could picture was big hair.
The teller laughed again and said you
were probably right and then added an apology: It’s lite rock.
You looked around the bank for an audience, putting
yourself on stage,
perhaps a pedestal,
and said you never knew a musician
who aspired to say he was a lite rock guitarist.
And then you added that you listen exclusively to jazz.
I sat there, my son’s crumpled dollar bills in my hand,
waiting for the computer screen to
unfreeze so I could open his account.
I tried to understand:
Perhaps you saw yourself, twenty years hence,
clicking keys on an adding machine,
staring at a computer screen,
wondering how you would pay for your children’s college.
Perhaps we saw ourselves twenty years ago,
our confidence untempered by time.
Perhaps none of us liked the image
of what we saw, our past and future selves
reflected in the other, each content with our nows
but not with our thens.
I left the bank and headed home, the music playing on.
And I saw that the winter aconites had
confidently opened their faces to the sun,
knowing not the
foibles of humanity.
They say that darkness falls all a’ sudden
like a blackout curtain dropped across the stage
separating us from the light.
But that’s not so.
We turn towards darkness, gradually, gently,
until figures become indiscernible, one from the other.
As the spring peepers sing, nightshapes blend and bleed, stretching towards each other, like the naked branches of the magnolia tree reaching for the sweet gum to comfort and console; to reassure I am here. I’ll see you on the morrow.
And in the morning, those very same branches will draw back the curtain of night to turn us back toward day. We will stop to admire the jeweled leaves adorning their knuckles and realize that suddenly it is spring.
They fed each other cured walnuts she’d gathered from the woods last fall, breaking the hard exterior beneath the blows of a hammer stolen from her father’s toolbox and prying out their broken hearts with a pick.
Hand in hand, they walked the pristine lawn, dull blades of grass succumbing to their bare and tender feet. “Look.” He pointed.
She stopped and paused where the mower blades had scraped away the rough roots of the oak tree, two hundred years old, according to local lore, and struck by lightening twice. There was a gap in the trunk, where she used to secret her treasures: Notes from old boyfriends. A journal she needed to hide from her brother. Cash for the time she considered running away. Now, she stuck her hand in the gap and withdrew a plastic bag.
She turned and stuffed the bag in her pocket. “Nothing.” She stared at the roots of the tree, imagining the blades of the mower endlessly chasing after themselves, head over heels until they stumbled upon a knot of wood and choked and had to back up and take a new path.
“I love you,” he said.
She reached a hand in her pocket. Felt for the familiar bag, pressed her thumb against the shape, tracing the thin hollow circle again and again.
She had stumbled. “I love someone else.”
She turned and walked again towards home, leaving neatly trimmed blades of grass and a weeping root in her wake.
We gather here
at the end of a life
I have taken for granted
We speak our last words:
before breaking apart
amid tin promises to
get together again
After two and a half years, the Trifecta Writing Challenge is closing. I’m going to miss this place.
Again, the children called for me to join them. “Come, Eva,” they urged, patting their dirty hands against my skin, pale and unfreckled.
“I cannot.” I shook my head to emphasize the point I had made every day, as if that would finally convince them of the truth of my words. But children, being children, are full of the possibilities inherent in impossibility.
Innocence is beauty. Continue reading
And you say you satisfy the needs of the birds, tossing handfuls of seed from your second story window while aiming a forty-four at the squirrels scrambling on snowy ground waiting for spring.
This was written for the second-to-last Trifecta Writing Challenge. The word was satisfy.
“I had just come to accept that my life would be extraordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”
He sat up and stared. No, he has no name. Don’t bother asking, I already did. He prefers anonymity. Anyway, he sat up, shoved the cat from his lap. “Extraordinary, how?” He took a sip of the tea he’d requested, tea I’d had to order from China. Pu-erh something or other, aged in the skin of an orange. He drank four cups each time he came, sitting elegantly upon the sofa he’d convinced me to put on my credit card, paying it off fifty bucks at a time so that he could rest his brittle bones upon a soft leather seat.
“Oh…” I reached into the plastic sleeve and grabbed another Thin Mint. Yes, he preferred the tin from Harrods, but he’d polished them off last month and I hadn’t yet gotten around to placing a new order, despite his persistent reminders. “Well, perhaps extraordinary is too strong of a word.”
“I see.” Another sip of the tea. A resigned sigh as he reached for a cookie.
“My socks, for instance.” Continue reading