I spent the summer mornings running
along the access road in Bonnet Shores
sleepy beach town, smell of warm sand and eelgrass
a handful of stores along the road
the donut shop the gas station
the Chinese restaurant
its torn vinyl booths where we passed a rainy afternoon when my sister
was in town and the only thing we could agree on was our hunger
past the broken umbrella stroller
left on the side of the road
the nail salon the drug store
at the roadside plant stand, I stopped, doubled over
to catch my breath, to cry: something in the hanging begonia baskets
something in the hand-tied bunches of lavender and thyme
and I find myself weeping for things I didn’t know
sometimes the best we can do is put all our secrets out
in plain sight like the time in the adult store
when we turned the corner clutching our rolls
of vinyl tape and there is the kindergarten teacher
with her arms full of white satin, a fur-trimmed headband
and we laughed because what else is there to do
we are all adults here, after all. at the checkout, a woman
coughs into her open palm.
Now, I walk past men and women sitting
on the benches downtown or near the fountain
young and old and they turn
their heads. They follow me with their eyes, not
because my skin glows with youth, it does not.
Not because I am particularly beautiful, I am not.
Not because I wear my dresses low and
let my hips sway, I do not. But because
I am a woman of a certain age with a certain
vibration in my bones. I am not boasting:
a forty-year old woman knows, after all, a thing or two
about pleasure, its giving and receiving,
and I wear what I know on me like I wear this wedding ring. Like
the traces that each of my children left on me,
the fine white lines between hipbones, the way
they have marked me as their own. Like I wear
my brick-building childhood, its paved playgrounds
and duck ponds, and the days spent at the shore
shooing seagulls and brushing damp sand from
our brown legs. the way we all wear everything
we have ever longed for and lost, and we can see it
on each other, if the light is right. What
will become of me? When I let all my hair
go gray? When I finally tire of hiding my disappointments
in fine silk blouses and cashmere shawls? Without
the lipstick and the bracelets? What will you think of me, then?
You say it excites you to think of me that way. Unadorned.
You can’t wait, you say, for the lines to bloom
around my lips and eyes, for the years we spend together
to carve creases into our skin.
Dear wounded, hopeful heart: before
our bodies betray us further,
take everything. Every breath and gasp
and sigh. Every tremble and pulse.
Work these small hours and all the small days.
The roadside flower stand. The lavender on the breeze
on our skin. Take this. Hoard this.
Collect this up in boxes and in bags
This and here and now and do not hesitate.
Don’t you see? We have no time to lose.