Un Petite Memoir
We bumped over dirt roads
In the Plymouth, in ‘51
To sand dunes
Stretched under afternoon sun
Like the huge flanks of a unicorn
Or a great bear. I sat between my parents;
They were still young, their hair dark,
Jack Benny on the radio.
“Who put that trombone
In my potato salad?”
And I laughed and laughed
And they laughed too,
Rolling me over the sand.
Once they were having cocktails
In the old adobe.
I was in a state of longing
For long hair, pulled a red t-shirt
Over my head
And skulked past them, grinning
“Signs of Romance!” to my mother
Because that was the title of a story
In one of her magazines.
She threw her head back and laughed
Her Irish belly laugh
And my father chuckled
And I felt loved.
Tonight in an old box I find
The photograph of a Hopi man,
A postcard writing to the one year-old me
By my father:
“How do you like this Indian, honey?” he wrote,
Signing x’s for kisses
Next to his name.
When I went home to visit
My father held up his hand, saying
“We are in the twilight.”
He stood stirring a dutch oven-full
Of chile even though
His lungs had given way.
Mother sat in a chair every evening,
Half-conscious, dreaming the desert
And even in illness managed Christmas,
Gathered up old quilts, silver-plate
From antique shops in the mountains.
I find old photographs
That show all of us looking
Quizzically at the camera
From the time when we belonged
To each other.