Ma Vie - In Four Quarters

I.

 

Dull, long nights and

Slow sunrises.

 

We play polar bears in the snow.

When we’re too wet, we come in and it’s

Parcheesi and cocoa

Singing carols,

Shivering by the woodfire.

 

Under four blankets, I dream of green things.

The lazy light shimmers on frozen fields.

No corn covering the earth.

 

Wake up, homework, housework, sleep.

Wake up.

 

Scented air as Mom bakes cookies and bread.

Soup’s on the stove.

She was sick, not long ago.

But no memory of the dark days,

Because every one’s the same.

 

Throwing up—I must be dying.

We’re all sick.

Books on tape. The Secret Garden.

British accents.

Old home videos of the wedding, first years.

Aunt Jodie kisses Dad—

Who was that woman?

I’m in a cradle on the kitchen table next to the

turkey for Thanksgiving.

 

I dream of more snow—we never have enough.

Even in winter, the farmers talk of drought.

Needlework, reading, firelight:

 

Not a bad life.

 

II.

 

I love this.

I’m waking up.

My body feels alive, finally.

 

We swing on the playset

singing “Amazing Grace,”

tempo set to the rhythm of our legs

as they push us forward:

Throw out, pull back,

Throw . . . pull . . .

Out . . . back . . .

Jump, thud, feet-on-ground:

How sweet the sound.

 

Our neighbor girl swears at her mom

On the sandbox floor of our restaurant.

When she leaves, we build bridges

And talk about eternity.

 

I like to look at the animals in the zoo.

My life is a story; I am on display

And watching them makes me feel better.

How are you, Mr. Leopard?

You pace a lot today.

I pace, too—in my mind.

 

Rummage sale-ing—always made me think of ships.

Do you own a daycare? The lady asks.

No.

We just have a lot of kids.

 

I am the oldest.

I am responsible for all ten.

I carry the youngest and scold the fighters.

 

But really, we’re all just playing make-believe.

 

III.

 

I never much liked summer.

hot wind, hot stillness,

hot, stiff, sweaty jeans.

Insecurity.

The chlorine burns my throat,

the snide remarks burn my ears.

Swimming used to be fun.

 

No routine:

too much freedom,

too much boredom.

At night, tears water my cheeks

like I water my garden every morning.

My garden gives little while my cheeks

produce plentiful pimples—perhaps,

I should water my garden with my tears.

 

But it’s strawberry season.

 

Strawberry fights,

Waterbottle fights—

Giggling girls.

We lie on our backs on the hard concrete,

Maddened by heat and exhaustion and humidity:

I tickle her feet and her screams are

Chasing little Tori around the barn.

But she slips from my fingers.

Our hearts touch, bounce, slip away.

I missed.

 

I look to hide.

Horses try to make up for the pain.

I muck, I ride—

I accomplish little; I’m more work than I am gain.

But I love it.

 

The horses listen.

 

IV.

 

Relief.

 

Coolness; dry, cutting wind.

The leaves turn and fall

as the trees blanket themselves—

insurance against the coming cold.

 

Canning the tomatoes:

Salsa, pasta sauce, green tomatoes, red tomatoes.

 

Small barefeet, toenails painted purple,

treading next to Daddy’s giant feet.

 

A walking stick,

A crimson leaf,

A walk in the glory.

 

Visits to the grandparents:

Big, black dogs,

Never-ending forest . . .

Freedom.

 

I have homework—

Not chains, but a purpose.

I’m learning.

 

Starting over,

New friends, new school, new life.

I find confidence, a little bit.

She’s platinum blonde, and she makes me feel needed

While I miss my old friends.

But they’re still with me, in a way.

When I see them, it’s like they never left.

As Addison tugs my hair,

They tug my heart.

—It hurts.

 

Still, I can’t say goodbye.

Just—see you soon.

My heart holds too tightly.

 

This is the promise:

We’ll do it again.

 

But I can’t let go, because this will shatter if I do.

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