|Jul/Aug 2016 Poetry|
Photographic Artwork by Victoria Mlady
In my teens, it wasn't quite long enough to
sit on. But long enough to be long, hanging
down straight as a dropped rock, red-blonde
and usually right in front of my eyes. People
asked what I was hiding from, but it was the
opposite of hiding, that hair. It wasn't like my
guitar-callused fingertips (hip but unlovely).
Or like my thighs, my poor shamed thighs,
lost under maxi skirts. It was my only A plus
outside of English class, a backlit waterfall
that glowed in dim rooms. It made you look.
Even bowed under all that hair, I could feel
you look. I said I wanted all that to stop, but
I didn't really. I cut my hair in my thirties
because I thought I had to, but then permed
it out so wildly it could set things on fire. I
wouldn't show my breasts or my still-sorry
legs, but I blew my ringlets dry with my head
hung below my knees and mis-matched my
earrings. The man I stayed married to said
it took years before he could finally see my
face. I was old five minutes after that. Who
knew I'd like the quiet? Who knew I'd grow
tired of it? Now I have lamb's fleece, shiny
as noontime traffic. You'll look or you won't.
It's too silly, too important. I shake my head,
searching for the right words, and see mostly
my hair, how it frames just about everything.
The House We Didnít Buy
dangled over Broadway, probably with Hudson
River views from the top story. I couldn't force
myself to climb that far. It was dark, derelict,
walls and floors the no-color of dust and shadows.
Concrete sealed the toilet bowl. There was wind,
and fall sunshine flickered under the battened
bathroom windows, cold and golden on all that
ugliness. I was sure then the house had been
murdered and left unburied. I was eleven. I was
old enough not to be so silly. Even now, my little
sister swears she wasn't. But I had to run outside
to stare at the terrible brink of the front yard:
four rickety flights down to our nearly-as-ruined
white convertible. My parents chased bargains.
They said they'd fix up the house, but then we'd
have to live there. Except we never did, and not
because I cried. I didn't. I was too sad to cry,
so for once I kept quiet and dreaded the future
that didn't happen. Years later, someone else
sided the place, killing what I now recognize as
gracious Edwardian lines. Still, I can't imagine
anyone happy there. Anger was trapped inside,
deep as the inside of a fist. We couldn't have just
painted that over. It would have swallowed us.
I'm always a child at this time of year,
watching the season advance through
two small windows at the sides of my
parents' fireplace, in our first house.
Here's the hearth's smooth grey stone—
river rocks I could cup my hands over—
under our thick, mahogany mantel. No
lamps shine, only the deep green end
of day: green like my grandmother's
glass coffee cups, like watercolors, or new
backyard moss. The trees have no leaves
but the grass is luminous and forsythia
that blazed yellow a week ago is now on
fire with green. My parents are quietly
elsewhere, my sister, my great aunt. Joy
has caught up with me for no good reason.
I've done nothing to deserve it. Even now.
None of us has done anything to deserve
joy. It's just present: all those gentle grey
clouds. That still, wet air. This sweet green.