My history is like an ill- sewn quilt, odd pieces of parents stitched loosely together, always ready to come apart, fade or be thrown away.
Perhaps my history is more like a beloved old pair of jeans, holes appear and are patched, patches wear out and are replaced, or the hole is just left, as if it were somehow a fashion statement.
There is little normal when you are adopted, loved perhaps, but always on the edge of being an outsider, and when that is repeated, the distance grows exponentially, until you find a birth parent or two and the holes are patched with dreams of what might have been.
I have carefully peeled back the skin of a hundred snakes and left their twisted forms curled around mesquite as so many skirts. Canadia geese follow carefully worn paths across an October sky undeterred by storm clouds giving chase from the west. A wolf wanders down from the tree line to the edge of the highway. She can taste the approach of winter, bitter on her tongue, her coat grown thick, watching for a buck to be thrown to the gravel shoulder by a passing truck. In my closet I have a pair of boots, nothing more than simple cowhide.
First Appeared in Amethyst Review (Canada), Vol. 8, No. 2, Winter 2000
The meeting drags on. Time is frozen. The space between a smile and a grimace is the edge of a fine blade and the width of a canyon. And you maintain the smile hoping it is not seen as the rictus you feel. Politeness requires a smile, your heart requires a fast escape. So you stay and tweak all of the little facial muscles to maintain the semblance of a smile. You don’t watch the clock on the wall, for it is only a source of frustration. When you leave for home, your face feels almost sore around the lips.
You came, Harlan, to Rochester somewhere in an endless winter, “Ellison in Tundraland” you said. We all chuckled approvingly.
You said a short prayer climbing into the rusting Opel, sliding on the edge of oblivion, and the approaching snowplow.
You stood, hoarse, smelling of Borkum Riff and English Leather, a tweed jacket over a polo shirt and thinning jeans and told us of the insanity of television, a medium pandering to idiots. We nodded, hoping you would finish before the Star Trek rerun.
We sat in Pat and Sandy’s as you consumed two orders of fries, and a dwindling bowl of ketchup. Later we sat in the Rat, staring at the empty bottles of Boone’s Farm until you took pity and ordered two pitchers. You were our patron saint.
Solzynitsyn was exiled to a cabin in Vermont, staring as the leaves greened and fell under winter. You served your banishment in the land of lost souls, miles from any reality.
First published in The South Carolina Review, Vol. 33, No. 1 (2000)
I sing a shattered song of someone else’s youth the melody forgotten the words faded into odd syllables heard in my dreams. The coyote stands at the edge of a gully staring at me and wondering why I slip from the hogan through the hole punched in the back wall slinking away in the encroaching dark. The priest, his saffron robes pulled tight around his legs in the morning chill, stares as I run my hands across the giant brass bell feeling its resonance. I hear the dirge as sleep nips at the edge of my consciousness grabbing the frayed margins of life