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John Prine- Hello in There

old-woman-in-the-street-sitting-near-a-tree-on-a-bench-looking-sad-and-tired-rachel-hershkovitz

There is a woman who never had pets or children but she owns three brooms. Each broom serves a purpose. One solves the leaves in the fall and the pollen in the spring. One solves the grains of rice and the kitchen crumbs. And one keeps everything else out, things try to follow her in on her shoe soles and bits of wrapping she’s picked off the mouthwash, the dish soap, the juice–those proofs that no one else has touched the content of things.

There is this woman who has never petted her dog because she hasn’t the need for a dog. Petting a dog opens the dog. She has never had a lover. The body preserves itself, but a dent to the heart, that aluminum can of cream of childhood soup, can cause paralysis.

She tries to take as few breaths as possible. Trees recklessly emit oxygen. They’re always taking the carbon dioxide we grant by snoring away. So she daren’t sigh over a thought as it is misuse, a steal for a nearby tree. She does not allow anything to make her gasp. Once she took a city walk that lead to an underpass where someone had graffitied that last line from an e e cummings poem: for life is not a paragraph and death i think is no parenthesis. She sneaked a little extra air. She always liked cummings; he seemed to understand that capital letters and punctuation were inefficient seals.  But she caught herself. It wasn’t a full gasp, just the hollow event that suggests a gasp before the claws grasp the rim of the can. She had vowed not to give her air, her ethics dictated that she also oughtn’t take too much of it (no matter how altered she was at the suggestion that she wasn’t suspended in the silk of parenthesis.)

One broom, the one that solves the leaves and the yellow dust, ushered the projectile masturbation of her neighbor’s oak right into the center of her yard and made it have sex. She didn’t notice it for two years: a frail fawn, knobby-kneed, trusting the partners both under the seal of grass and beyond the seal of blue sky which asserts that the earth its own thing and not star-struck. You’d expect, now knowing more of herself than she does but understanding her commitment, that she’d chop it down like an invading weed, but she didn’t. She watched it for a length of time if time could be measured in wide miles and not the ironed clock-pleats of minutes. She watched it for stretches. It reached as tall as the eye of a spiderweb outside the lower right window pane. She watched through the woven fly before and after it was devoured. The spider dismantled her structure, or perhaps it just disappeared on its own. After a burying snow and its depletion, the tree was as tall as the top pane of glass.  She also cooked soup and soaped her hair, rinsed the suds, mopped linoleum, left a check at Christmas for the postman, went to the bathroom, scratched a bite, called a plumber, deposited checks and bought noodles. In other words, she wasn’t watching the tree, or observing herself observing the tree or observing herself overlooking a web. But soon she had to crane her neck. Then she had to squint to see its tip. All this nonsense had accumulated around it, droppings and moltings and movings on of its own doing, so she swept it away at the base until its trunk was flush with the grass. She beat down the ivy crawling toward its throat, batted away a woodpecker attempting to break its seal.

 

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posted by holly.

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