The Town

We must have thought this valley in our heads, a paradise of land or where our parents took us to,
the next place and we stayed there, Colorado just a late night dream of what childhood was,
Prosser or Missouri or Morrowville just places disappearing, words the baby sister doesn't
care about, she looks at you unblinking and moves on toward mother, the place you were born,
you'll never go back there. We moved everyone around and we were told where to go, tucked it
under our skirts and smoothed our hair under bonnets, or did we forget, now it's straw hats
and lace collars or hair in short curls and farm girls all, we are laughing and loose limbed, the
bonnets just our grandma's she wouldn't be caught dead in it now. A proper woman with
scrubbed floors and no worries, no worries, her face was gentle before I knew her but life is not,
stop talking of that. I guess you have to know it'll turn out fine. It's so grand to see you after all
this time. When is the next time, well what a grand life. I could use a hand with this laundry, see.
We stare at each other and the summer scenery and the laundry, let's do it together. It always
shocks me when she cries. She doesn't do it anymore, it's like she's forgotten anyone is leaving.

Farm girls all, or the general store or at the bulk merchandise, she worked for her board and
room above the post office, mother was a pianist and more interested in drama than housework,
mother was a true pioneer woman and made do, well she was a fine cook, my grandma was a
fine woman, they were religious ladies, she was a lady photographer passing through towns we
think and competent as a man, they held a Sunday school for us girls, I went to Sunday school
for the pamphlets see we had no library. I wanted to read. Oh electricity, no, just the blacksmiths.
In 1942 the grade school burned down, and well I think there were ten of us graduating but see,
they went to war. The winters we stayed in town at our sister's place. They all had children
before I was grown old enough, my mother is a woman with roads all over her and brittle,
they wouldn't recognize, he died before I was born I think. Only one brother in the end. My,
he was funny.

On lucky school days we hitched a ride on the dairy wagon, it was a car or a truck, I'm getting it
wrong, if you were good and delivered it, stop walking. Did your mother laugh at the baby and
was the house always white like that. When she disappeared into her older, meaner self, and
when you disappeared too. We must have thought this valley, green and all, trees and cattle, hills
and flat like paradise, like where we're stopping. We tucked ourselves away and it was a fun
town to grow up in. Were there trees in the floor of it, did the miners die out as the century,
that town doesn't exist now, we named this after the last two born. Well, I guess you have to
know it will turn out fine, it will turn out the way it will turn out. You say such a good life, and
eventually there are no Bobbys in the creek and no namesakes now and no head wound, you say
it with no smiles and you mean it, mean it. I know there wasn't time, we were too remote. I'm
missing relatives, we can see through the walls now, who was that uncle with the barn, you
stayed on the home place but lost your children too, the sternness of it and the plainness of it,
what of it. Your sister laughs and laughs. Well I don't know that we talk too much. And,
disappearing at the end of the day suddenly. It's so sunny and the days are so long, were they all
happy and young before I knew them, did they fool anyone and fool themselves too or am I the
fool, life was a fine thing and you stay at the home place and hope only some, you have relations
and a short memory, no need to look them in the eye or think anyone will, you don't need to
think anyone, we have grown old with it and been lucky. I swear there is no need. Stop looking at
me like something stays here and hurts in my heart.

(First published in 2015 Jack Straw Writers Anthology; excerpt from book in progress Will I live here when I grow up)