In Linda Aldrich’s prose poem we recognize the life we all entered into this spring, a life that involved the isolation and many questions and unnerving uncertainties brought on by the pandemic. We are presented with the specific uncertainties and anxiety of one woman. In this chance meeting we see some of what we can offer each other: an open ear (and heart), an attempt to engage with the natural world, and to make art that might bring comfort. The poem conveys its two voices so well we can always tell who is speaking, and it also gives us a few delicious facts we may not have known about foxes and doves.
Betsy Sholl, MAJ Poetry Editor
I make myself go outside to dig space for flowers I don’t dare purchase yet. A woman comes walking in a black scarf, plays strings in the city’s orchestra, lives alone, is running out of money. Received a bit from the musician’s fund, but not near enough, you know, to pay the bills and should she call her mortgage company, or is it better not to let them know? No space for flowers where she lives, so walks this way to see people doing things in yards, hasn’t talked to anyone for days, can’t get through to unemployment. All bouncing ball non sequiturs like a child who tells a movie. Come see my mourning dove nest, I say. Did you know foxes climb trees? The skinny red one wandering our yard might climb this arbor, so I keep watch with binoculars, my round circles of reach, the urge to brood so strong, a dove will sit on a pinecone or stone for weeks, waiting for something to change. When my mother was dying, she says, I sat by her bed for a week, watched her try to breathe. She’d arch up, then collapse. Made me cringe in my chair, but at least I could be there. The body fights to stay alive, I say, to not shut down, and then I see my own mother’s final hours, feel my sturdy self deconstitute. Not an unhatched stone, but no wisdom either. Not sure about your mortgage. Do you play your violin to keep in shape? Early mornings, and now she plies her bow arm in the air to wave goodbye. I’ll try to write a poem today I say to her disappearing coat, and feel again that ache of absence grown familiar, lonely tune of hairline strain and wobbled note.
Linda Aldrich is the Poet Laureate of Portland. Her two previous poetry collections are Foothold and March and Mad Women. A new book of poems, Ballast, will be out from Deerbrook Editions in 2021.
Image at top: Leon Benn, Gardening Techniques, oil, oil pastel, acrylic, and fabric dye on linen, 84 x 62 in., 2020.