Please also visit my poetry blog, La Parola Vivace, to enjoy the companion poem to this piece. Feel free to pass the links on however you wish– please just credit me as author of the works shared.
You know it’s a good day here in the West when young horses that haven’t seen anything but each other for weeks are turned out into the day. Frolicking although still blanketed against the frigid morning, led out one by one from the blue barn west of us, they are breathless, with frosted whiskers, telegraphing their delight with their flickering ears.
Whose horses are they, I wondered, and what would it be like to have a surfeit of young beautiful horses? And I wondered today when I was sideswiped by an old Subaru with a set of drums in the back and about six hippies in it with Wyoming plates, who those kids were and where they were going, and I hoped they weren’t too high, and that music would carry them through being young and reckless enough to drive like that. Joy to the World, I thought..
I wondered when I saw a man reading a book wearing headphones walking up the street against the traffic. I think we all saw him and now we all have a new definition for faith.
I was perplexed once more when I passed an old white mobile home I almost rented on the right, up the rise where the new King Soopers is going up brick by brick, and I saw that the current tenants have artfully placed pots of plastic geraniums on the steps up to their door. Now I have some idea of what I can do on the cold days in the cold years when I can’t afford to go to Florida. I never thought of reconstructing Boca Raton with plastic flowers and ceramic flamingoes.
Coming up North Whitcomb, the dirt lane we all live on, I passed by Preacher Bob’s dove cote and thought I saw the doves stiff with their legs up; I haven’t seen the preacher all winter but I’ve seen mule deer does lying in his front yard. I hope my eyes deceived me; never seen a dove in that position that lived to tell about it.
I had earlier fallen into an even deeper siege of wonderment and questioning about the people around me in the lab where I went hobbling in the walker up the snow-melt sprinkled ramp—it seemed that some were losing their hair and others’ hair was growing back. Then, I was distracted by my phlebotomist, a lovely East Indian girl who seemed truly interested in my holiday cooking saga that culminated in the cheesecake of a lifetime.
Seeing those people of indeterminate sex without much hair made me think of Irene in the nursing home three years ago, there next to my room and how she would weep for her husband Bob at night with such perfectly coiffed hair, and copious tears; she was blind and yet every hair in place. Then one night I rolled past with my broken leg in its immobilizer sticking out like a rudder and I saw someone with her back to me with very little hair, white wisps, and Irene’s coiffed grey cap of hair sitting on the bed next to her.
I could never soothe Irene; it seemed that she just needed to cry in someone’s arms and that it was its own good thing. She had gone blind, and missed Bob her husband, who couldn’t take the confinement of a nursing home and kept running into the traffic so that he had to be with Irene’s daughter clear across the country. But I finally gave her a doll I had embellished and dressed in a soft cream and white jumper. She learned the doll with her hands, and swaddled it in a bleached out towel one of the aides bought, and cried over it.
I wondered why JoAnn had to be so alone when she was dying in the room on the other side of me, her thin white hair plastered to her head, in rhythmic morphine modulated couplets as if she were in labor, aides coming in now and then to restart her John Denver CD: almost heaven, Colorado. Even though she called me a bitch often before she collapsed, and turned her head away pretending she hadn’t been the one to do it, I’m certain she is in a heaven that looks like this Colorado day.
It is a heavenly cold, blue day; the Arabian mares are bolting in the paddock from one end to the other. I catch one’s eye as I bump past in the Ranger and she tosses her head at me. I dare you to ride me.
No sir. No ma-am. I think I’ve learned my lesson now. She reminds me of the beautiful Serenade, a filly I traded for one of my butterball golden retriever puppies. When she backed out of the trailer Doug whistled and said, “That’s a lot of horse, hon.”
She was, bucking me off one day when someone unfolded a blue tarp and I had been riding with a loose rein feeling proud of myself. My left leg turned around and I pulled myself from one chair to another for several months. The ortho doc said no more riding for you but I didn’t listen.
Then we got Vida and we know how that went—the induction and the loss of mare and foal. And then, I couldn’t stand not having a grey Arab mare and I got beautiful April, the daughter of Wayne Newton’s stallion, GG Samir. No one realized it but I googled her papers and that was the day I found out how much you can learn if you just look and look and refine your searches.
All that happened with April is that the saddle slipped, but somehow I cork-screw fractured my right leg and then I had this thing called nonunion, when you don’t grow new bone and I learned that the trauma of being in a body cast as a kid could come back so that I was afraid to try the smallest thing in therapy. I learned that I could still be as fearful as a child.
But really, I was brave, and I never gave up on my dreams. I wasn’t afraid to hold Irene, or sing to JoAnn.
Last night Doug and I were sitting by candlelight listening to Bach on the old RCA ghetto blaster. He said, “I’ve got to make out some bills and go uptown tomorrow.”
Uptown is just a mile away and there’s no up about it, but this is how Texans put things, I’ve learned. When they come home they say “I’m coming in”. When bad things happen they say, “We could have gone all day without that.” When someone sneezes they say “Scat!” and I have no idea why; we always said “Gezundheit!” in my family and I thought everyone’s family said “Gezndhiet”—but live and learn.
That’s what you do; you live and learn. You look at the others getting their blood drawn and you wonder who might be waiting for bad news, who has already gotten bad news, if the pregnant girl spewing Spanish into her cell phone is having a good pregnancy and will have the father of her child holding her legs and soothing her or whether she’ll be alone and scared and afraid to ask anyone to hold her hand.
The last time I was pregnant I got scared. I had so wanted a child, but that night in tears I went outside and pounded my stomach with my fist. I was terrified and I don’t know why. A few days later I slipped the tiniest inflection of protoplasm and I’ve always thought it was my fault.
I’ve learned as I learned today that if you get sick or go blind or come down with leukemia you can just get a wig. That doesn’t bother me so much anymore although back in the years when I had long dark tresses I dreaded the very thought.
I learned that you can cheer yourself up with plastic geraniums in a pinch even if you came from a bunch of self-anointed blue bloods who wouldn’t be caught dead with plastic flowers anywhere.
I learned today that even though I didn’t think anyone else worried about the stalled horses next door someone came today and turned them out to buck and neigh and sniff each other in the high sun. I learned that my inner child has a very vivid imagination to think that Preacher Bob would abandon his doves to die like that in the cote.
I looked in the mirror at the thrift store and I saw a woman who looks like something out of Charles Dickens begging for alms on the street corner, but I bantered with the thin widows who patiently sort the rejected goods and clothes that are dropped off there, patiently sewing a button on a shirt, arranging the dried flowers, the baby clothes, the girl’s vanity like the one I had years ago in Albuquerque—patiently scrutinizing a stretched out pair of sweats to decide whether to mark them L or XL. I was shocked one day when I found a bra with cups that would fit over a ten year old boy’s head, and that the bra fit me.
I don’t know why at 62 I have such big, juicy gazongas. They’re pretty useless except when I pinch them a little bit when I’m lying in the dark listening to soft voices singing as if far away; then they come to attention.
My own breasts—hanging in there– and the things I’ve seen and thought about today just in one trip to town and back teach me that we should be alert to the lessons and beauties of the day; we should be attentive, and that some of us so inclined should make record of the moments and events that will never come again before–poof—we’re a little dust on the winds of oblivion, all of the things about us things other people remember. This I believe.
Jenne’ R. Andrews
Copyright Jenne’ r. Andrews 2011
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