Seventy


When I was younger I thought when I was older she would be closer.

Older I only remember when younger how very close she was.

Under the maples, with her little black bible.

Writing in the margins, beside the stanzas.

Lilac air, bell skies.

Come, she whispered, we must hold on to the day!

She was so, what is the word.

This morning what I thought an explosion just grackles going up into the trees.

Inviolable.

The trip to the interior, so long ago now.

Flying in an airplane.

Safari shorts, the vest with many pockets, pith helmet.

Without a guide or even an interpreter.

In the plaza, hat in hand, finding a driver.

Returning on that treacherous road.

The sky bleached, drained of color by a white sun. I was afraid night would never come, and I said so, but my driver admonished me.

We continued in silence. We might have been driving up the coastal road.

No, it must have been the interior. That is where I met her, that is where we started.

When I was younger.

She was always smoking something from a little pipe, I donít remember what, but she shared, of course, along with her cigarettes.

She was very kind.

We drove down a red dirt road, under the mossy trees.

We came to a farmhouse.

I donít remember whose it was, and I donít think anyone was home.

The hay had been cut, the green bales sat stolid in the fields.

They look, I said, like little houses.

For elves, she said, and laughed at her little joke.

More than four, I said, but she was struggling with the column shifter, bringing the old ford to a stop. We went into the barn, into the golden beams.

Whispering because of the horses.

Chaff floating in the air, she came very close to me, little beads of sweat above her lip.

It was my first time.

She reached under her dress and took off her stockings, pulled up my sleeve, tied my arm.

She took the little paper package from her purse, unfolded the triangles, tapped the fine powder into a spoon.

The lighter flickered, the needle to the filter.

Laying in the hay, lazily, dreamily.

She kicked off her flats, wiggled her toes. She found a little place on top her foot for the needle.

Under the influence, so to speak.

Camping, once, in the national mountains. I do not recall the month, but the weather so fine, the dark-winged birds soaring in the winds.

Perhaps we were in another country.

My hat blew into the ravine. I remember tight pants that split when I knelt for a coin.

All that night we heard what we thought might have been what we didnít know. Cold air more menacing than we anticipated.

We hurried inside the tent and laid very close, very still.

The coin not legal tender in my country.

When I was older.

She lived in the capital for a time, if I remember. The stories she had to tell, my word.

She brought the little pastries they are famous for.

In the evening she read to me from a novel, something about an undisciplined army entering a village.

Eyes glistening, the dress strap fell off her shoulder. I saw that delicate bone that presses the skin just above her breast.

A tress or two fell into her sight, which she lifted, absently, and in the same motion put back the strap. She never took her eyes off the page.

The collarbone.

When I was younger.

Driving along the interstate, into the dunes, staring at the hills of sand.

Her impregnable eyes.

It looks like someoneís skin, she said. Someone smooth and beautiful.

She smiled, or I did, then winced. The sun was setting, flashing in the chrome. I let go of her hand. I turned the radio a little louder.

I concentrated on the road, on the driving, my grip on the wheel. There was still some distance to go.

It may be that she never lived in the capital.

Sitting on the lake dock, starlings coming down from the yews.

I am not getting any younger, she said.

Silver circles where the fish were troubling the water, from the inside.

I wish I could go back and change it, she said.

All of it.

I reached for her hand.

When I was younger.

Then I was older.

Naked branches. Snipes so cold they shiver.

Changing the clothes in the chest of drawers, the splints of cedar.

Gloves to protect her hands.

Leaves gather in the stonewall lee. She watches the empty fields lie down dark.

She sets the table.

Go on, she says, eat.


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