Friday, February 13, 2009

Rain 2000 Miles and 80 Years Away

Lines from "A
Visit From Saint Nicholas" keep
running through my head, and won't
run out, or straighten out either. It's the hurricane
that's wild; the leaves
just fly. Outside my window
there are no leaves, only
steady rain, not wild either, quite tame rain and I
want to hear it but it's soundless in the night. These times I can
so fast slip back 70 years and lie in a brass bed in my
grandfather's house listening, knowing
just which trees were slippery now and which ones
I could if I went out in the night easily
climb. Once I climbed the front maple tree in the
middle of a hurricane, infuriating
my mother. What a ride. How little those years taught me
that has been of any use - but how present they still are. I
can walk up Pelham Road right now beside my
grandfather, pop open a milkweed pod and
watch the tiny parachutes adorn the afternoon. I can
slit a dandelion stem with my tongue and taste the
bitter milk as I curl it to stick in my hair. I can
paste a maple key on my nose. Chickoree, goldenrod,
asters, now and then some coreopsis in among the
rye grass. I want to think them useless memories but
joy is not useless. Then find a horse-chestnut, bore a hole in it with
Girl Scout Knife, tie the end of the string through the hole and
see how far it will go when you twirl it and let go
of the string. Far. Sometimes you lose it. Then you get out your
peach seed to whittle some more with the knife, making
a tiny basket to wear around your neck on a lanyard you
made at camp, or just
on a string. I am hungry now for the
meat of the poisonous peach seed. Bitter almonds,
before dinner. Oh, and another
seed that is good is the seed of a ripe pear. Here I am
over 80 and too sick right now to eat anything; maybe
it's the want of pear seeds that's
making me sick. But the memory - that's
making me well again.

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