|Jul/Aug 2002 • Poetry|
The Woman Who Loves Walking
Along the Sacramento in April the people
and butterflies, bright green poison oak
and the smooth ruddy arms of manzanita,
merge and twist along the trails that line
the river. Flies hatch by the millions.
Fingerlings shine in the warm shallows.
Balls of fishing line tangle in the oaks,
and a long lost rope hangs from a limb
near the water from the days before the dams
when the river was warm enough to swim.
A woman, born after prohibition and bathtub
gin—the Egyptian angel of death—
white hair and straw hat, long sleeves,
tells a story about how, at sixteen, she climbed
the stairs of the Statue of Liberty reaching
the top first with ease when only two men
had the courage, the others taking the elevator.
She could have been in the Olympics. Today
she goes off the trail because it's shorter
and takes the bank going sideways in her
Comfort Plus shoes and slacks through grass.
She hops the small drainage channel
for the view, breathing the intoxication,
and to see poppies around the bend,
curious what's there to explore next time.
Back to the beginning is slower now along
a neighborhood on the shadowed sidewalk
to the car. She was once a nightshift nurse
and could have afforded this neighborhood
but that would have been taking it on the chin.
Woke with corduroy
strips on my left cheek,
having fallen asleep
again in work clothes.
Drool, one eyelash
stuck to my nose,
smudges of mascara
all the lights still on,
one candle still burning
on the kitchen table. Two
yawn tears falling
into the carpet. Falling
back asleep and waking
again. Not a morning person.
The last man who loved me
said I always smelled fresh
and sweet like plants.
Mornings like this,
is it the same when
nobody is watching?
First it was a dark spot on July 4th
at the World Class Pillow Fighting
Championship in Kenwood. She bought
a Coke, and while walking on the saffron
grass in the square, she noticed the spot
of black dirt in her drink. So she
reached in with a finger to slide
the speck out along the waxy sides
of the cup and somehow the spot
disappeared into the beige of her skin
not really there. Isn't it the same
with a dissolving marriage, a secret
cancer, some part in the car going
out? She turned her head to look
into the pale blue sky, noticing
the smoke and noise of motorcycles,
and just beyond, the rows of old houses,
corn and herbs in a garden plot, the black
walnut trees, power lines, and then the sky
colored with amoeba hair and the dark
spots floating up there, too. How
had she not noticed this before?
It was, of course, something
to do with her eyes and not the sky
or the Coke, or the hot summer air.