Gentle or Not
After we leave New York, I read a book about how to not let the internet destroy my brain. I think the answer is to have been raised in California,to be a completely different person. At home people clap every night for healthcare workers. They clap like someone who's seen their friend's playor flown in a plane when planes were still new. I call it sweet but don't know how to judge public gestures, like when after the towers fell,after our mother pulled us out of school, my little sister chastened me: "You shouldn't be reading right now."My friends take me canoeing in the Housatonic River, where the drought is obvious, water low and undressing the downed trees.Steve noses his canoe through narrow channels of branches. I break through brutely, scraping the belly of the boat against water-softenedtrunks while a beaver slaps toward us, as if injured. Steve says she's luring us away from her babies, den entrance exposed by the dropped waterline.I'd like to be able to look at a thing and know what I'm seeing, the way my friend points an oar at a pile of rocks and sees the trestle it once was.Spring is working on me. I don't want to change yet, but fawns and goats and all the girls I knew in high school tell me it's time to have a baby.I might listen or else settle for a dog so large we name it Bear. When it finally rains, the house shakes with thunder, wineglasses chatter coldly and moss on the trees brightens like wet velvet. I think I'm all right but in dreams my teeth shatter.The gardeners tell us to weed to protect the new flowers. Every time I hear that word I remember teenage friends—boys blowing pot smokeat a spider trapped in the middle of its web, until it seized up and died. When I imagine children, I want boys who are gentle or not at all.I pull at crown vetch until there are ticks in the crooks of my arms. Mike says we'll have them whenever I want. But I want too many things, babies, yes, but alsoto eat pizza in the street with unclean hands, unworried. I want to know the world the way my mother does, sprouting nasturtium seeds on damp paper towels in the kitchen.I tend my own but cheat, buy them full-grown from the nursery, leaves round as saucers, in the way of daughters fearing their mothers like them less each year we grow older.
Copyright © 2022 by Laura Cresté.
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Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
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