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Suppose a mother whose children are gone, looking at the long straight road ahead, feeling herself invisible and beside the point, were to step off into the woods, leave a note that said I don’t want to live without passion; could she erase herself? Could she keep blind to the holes her betrayal would leave in all the little boats, the way they would sink slowly over the long years ahead, those boats she’d made and set afloat in hope?
Suppose the woman arrives at the water and finds there the man she has almost forgotten, waiting for her in a kayak with red paddles. And now she gets in the front and begins to stroke, and they pull together in silence, dipping and turning, dipping and turning, two figure eights in the late air, each time she raises her paddle, the cool water trickling down along its stem drops in shiny glints on her bare legs, and he, without speaking, matches her stroke, controls the rudder with his feet, steers them out onto the glittering green lake where they see the sun drop behind the tree line, where they see eleven ducks in a V beyond the trees in the grey pall of a fire far away in someone else’s wood, and the note she thought of writing becomes an unremembered dream, and one lone brown straggler, flying up from the lake beside them, calls its desperate wait, wait as it lifts across the sky.
Leningrad, 1942 (after reading City of Thieves by David Benioff)
All day grieving Kolya in his Russian hat bleeding to death this morning in the snow, remarking, even then, on how much blood the body contains, five liters, he thought, and it poured like rubies in the icy air.
I could not bear it: two hundred pages of starvation, dogs cut in half by explosives tied to their backs, dragging themselves bleeding through frozen grass, peasant girls made sexual slaves, unthinkably torn, everyone hungry, stealing and dying, corpses littering page after page, and still he smiled, mentioned an interesting fact, made his way, and then to be shot by his own compatriots as he tried to get back into Leningrad with a dozen eggs under his coat – I turned to my sleeping husband and wept.
Listen, Kolya, I tell him this morning, my hands deep in the tomato plants he would have given his last glue candy to sample, Listen. Surely you don’t have to die. Surely there’s another way to end this story. You could go missing, never be heard from again. Get carted down to the sea, find passage on a ship to a country where no war has penetrated, some sunny village in a far forest’s safe embrace . Implausible, yes. Asymmetric, indeed. Even unsatisfying perhaps. But you would be alive out there somewhere, and I could love you still.
Mostly I notice the cracks: the way it didn’t look when I brought it home, how things break down, often aided by children and animals, a perfect vase and twelve years later I notice the hairline where it’s been glued. The child itself, a round pink creature 100 percent whole and with a 360-degree future begins to flaw and flake, gets spots, doesn’t do well at maths, requires an insulin pump, and the ceiling starts to tremble, the chandeliers swing.
I need to sleep in the arms of a deep cradle in a familiar night where everything returns to the fullness of nothing happened yet – safety in stasis – this changing so full of rocky outcroppings cliff sides and mud, small thuds in the night.
GAIL RUDD ENTREKIN has an M.A. in English Literature from Ohio State University and has taught poetry and English literature at California colleges for 25 years. Her collections of poems are Change (Will Do You Good) (Poetic Matrix Press, 2005), which was nominated for a Northern California Book Award, You Notice the Body (Hip Pocket Press, 1998), and John Danced (Berkeley Poets Workshop & Press, 1983). Poetry Editor of Hip Pocket Press since 2000, she edits the press’ online environmental literary magazine, Canary (www.hippocketpress.com/canary.cfm). She is editor of the poetry & short fiction anthology Sierra Songs & Descants: Poetry & Prose of the Sierra (2002) and the poetry anthology Yuba Flows (2007). Her poems have been widely published in anthologies and literary magazines, including Cimarron Review, the Ohio Journal and Southern Poetry Review, and she and her husband, writer Charles Entrekin, live in the hills of San Francisco’s East Bay.
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Photo credit: Christopher Woods is a writer, teacher and photographer. He lives in Houston and in Chappell Hill, Texas. He shares a gallery with his wife Linda at Moonbird Hill Arts (www.moonbirdhill. exposuremanager.com/)
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