What I Read

A woman went to the North
to live between the mountains
away from the world, and it
was there that she wrote about
the mainstream news stories
you and I read on a regular
basis. Her premise discussed
how inconsequential it is for
trains to crash and awards to
be given and mild rain to
pass through and new hires
to be announced (some of these
were made up for effect) when
you live in the wilderness. I
suppose out there a person’s
perception changes and isn’t
so centered on being better
than they were the day prior.
Anyway, I have not viewed
news in the same light since
reading her words, and am
adding a few of my own here
so that you might make your
own decision on what I read.

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Shiny Objects

To the left of my piano hangs a painting of a Chincoteague Pony. My father bought this for me just before I became a teenager, so I did not appreciate it then but I do now. It was painted by a local artist and sold for $250 at a cafe by the beach near to where I grew up. This is what I remember being told about its origins; I was young when he gave it to me, and sometimes our memory changes our truth, but I think that I have recalled this correctly.

The painting is behind glass, so when I sit at the piano I can see my face reflected in it. I often look over and watch my silhouette as I’m playing and think about how long my hair has grown or what angle my jawline is taking or if my posture is straight. I hate that I look at myself this closely, but it is how I have gotten (climbed) to where I am–such ruthless attention to detail, such heightened awareness–so I find that I simultaneously appreciate this part of myself.

This is not the first piano that allowed me to see myself. At twelve years old my parents purchased a black lacquered Yamaha that was for many years kept against the living room wall nearest to the front door. I could sit at the piano bench and look directly into its dark gloss finish and see my face reflected, like looking into a tinted mirror or opaque window.

Once I became a good pianist, I could play the keys and watch my reflection at the same time – meaning that, simultaneously, I heard what was on the inside and saw what was on the outside. If this sounds intimate this is because as a girl it was, and as a woman still is. I am today no less fascinated to experience myself in this way, to discover what is reflected in my music, in one way and sometimes two.

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Send

This article
I think
might be
appreciated
by you

It has been
three and
one half
years but
why not

I open a
new email
message
and type
the note:

Thought you
might like
to read this
so just
sharing


And look
your city is
mentioned
among the
others


I am sure
this will
spark an
exchange
and soon

It is only
two minutes
until I am
notified:
undeliverable

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At the Gate

Once the race is run
don’t the horses circle back
counter clockwise across
the same turf where once
they stood inside the gate
muscles warmed, minds
furlongs in the future.
Isn’t it also true that in
running the final stretch
they return to the place
new races will unfold?
If I were a horse consider
me ready to be loaded in,
not for the first time,
listening closely for the
bell in the way that I once
was a mare inside a gate
waiting my turn to run
and would like to again

December 30, 2019

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Best Dress

I have slipped into you,
put you against my skin,
You learned my walk by
holding pendulum hips,
took a place in my home,
often hung by the door
to my bedroom – I can’t
recall how many times
I’ve looked over from bed
to see you waiting for me
and thought how lucky
to have found each other

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Elegy to a Maple

Going home this summer, I found the fence torn down halfway along itself, the same fence that divided our yard from the neighboring plant nursery – that I climbed over on one particular night with a childhood friend, and we wandered through an acre of potted trees taller than us and startled wild rabbits and I distinctly remember looking up at the stars, and in the veiled night felt the air of magic that children feel before they become adults and enchantment becomes something entirely different. And this night is what inspired Girls in the Garden, which is about trespassing onto another’s property after hours but is also very certainly about more than that.

And so last summer, upon returning to my childhood home during the same month we signed over our family’s property of 30 years to a land developer, I walked through the opening in this newly fallen fence and further into my backyard than I had been in years, to an aged and giant maple that like the next door garden I once personified into a friend, and in my memory still do, but at the time of this writing I don’t believe the tree still stands.

On this day I approached my Giant Maple Tree with hesitation, and I believe this is why: sometimes we wait to touch something that is good, because the sooner something begins, the sooner it also ends.

But of course I did touch it, because that is why I went to see it: to say goodbye. I put my palms on its moss-grown bark in the way a daughter touches a parent who is soon to die. I did not want to take my hands away.

I put my forehead against its trunk, the way a tired woman leans her face into a man’s shoulder. Who comforts who in this moment I do not know, but would like to believe it can go both ways, whether you are a woman or a man or a tree. Regardless, I did not want to take my face away.

I asked that they wait until I leave – until I flew home – to cut it down. Who wants to watch death.

The boating ropes we’d tied to it more than twenty years earlier were still wrapped around the trunk the day I pulled out of the driveway and watched my childhood home and the Giant Maple Tree disappear as we drove up the hill to the airport. Those ropes, once upon a time, at one end held the seat of a swing where my younger self would sit and sing as loudly as I wanted on the back half-acre.

By now the ropes must be gone, and of course, the tree too. Now I hold in my memory the branch that, for the span of at least one childhood, supported a comfortable swing for a young and awkward girl who for many years believed in the magic of her yard.

And now I must turn my face from its shoulder. Now, I have taken my hands away.

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