Wednesday, October 2, 2013

How We Die Here \ Recycled Childhood

Alan:  The drownings of two young women this past summer (lines 2 and 3), which darkened a usually beautiful time of year, spilled for me into memories of so many other local deaths we can’t shake off, an ever-extendable list.

How We Die Here

Death by pulp truck.
Death by driving off the end of the road in the fog
where it becomes a boat ramp into the frigid bay.
Death by chainsaw.
Death by the forked tree that twists as it falls
or that snaps as it falls
and you a mile from help.
Death in the embrace of a tree at 2 a.m.,
the sharp curve catching you unawares.
Death by snowmobile missing the curve,
by ATV, motorcycle, pickup truck missing the curve.
Death by black ice.
Death by deer or bear stepping out on the road at dawn.
Death particularly by moose: nothing reflective, not even the eyes,
and the body on its stalks crushing you as it falls.
Death by the drag catching far below as you run against the tide,
the stern suddenly under, no time for the survival suit.
Death by the tide creeping round and behind you
as you dig for a few more clams at last light.
Death by honey-pot, quick-mud grabbing as you cross the flats alone.
Death by logs coming off the truck as it rounds the sharp curve,
or by logs backing off onto you as it starts up at the light:
death by unsecured load.
Death by the tractor tipping you off and falling on the too-steep cross-slope,
or by the auger that un-jams suddenly, your arm still in it, the PTO engaged.
Death by wood chipper.
Death by the known assailant, the spouse or ex-spouse
or ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.
Death by your father in the murder-suicide that includes the kids.
Death by gun, alone in the woods out back, or in the next room
while the family gathers for Christmas dinner.
Death by the friend, the drinking buddy, the crazy out-of-nowhere argument.
Death by wearing white mittens when you go to check gunshots
near the back yard in deer season.
Death by sitting on a stump listening to the radio at the edge of the woods,
your uncle hunting.
Death by falling through the ice, your snowmobile still running
as you crawl toward the hole your friends just made
on the lake you thought you knew so well.
And death too common to think about: by cigarettes, by alcohol,
by drug overdose, by overweight, by wearing out in Winter, by cancer.
Ah yes.  We must not forget.
Death by cancer.
                                   Death by cancer.
                                                                    Death by cancer.
                                                                                                   Death by cancer.

Pulp truck: a truck used for hauling pulpwood or whole logs, often overloaded
ATV: all-terrain vehicle (“4-wheeler”)
Honey-pot: a hollow in the tidal substrate, covered and hidden by soft mud
PTO: power take-off; a device that transfers power from a tractor to other equipment

Nancy:  Growing up in the Depression, my first “grown up” underwear was made of a flour sack; our handkerchiefs were scraps of worn pillow cases which had been sheets; and my winter quilt was made of men’s jackets and trousers.  Very few girls failed to learn to sew a hem stitch, and I applied a lot of rickrack to hide the worn edges of my skirts.  Bacon fat became soap, and no jar went to waste.  In no way did we feel deprived by all this creative re-use.

Recycled Childhood

Now there’s a word for it,
a campaign, a commission, but hey,
we lived it; our soap
was grease (what we hadn’t eaten)
and lye, and I helped, wrapping
the new-cut bars in old bread wrappers
and carrying them to the attic to age.

We saved jars, put jelly in any old jar,
baked in coffee cans.  Granny put her black salve
in milk white glass pots that our neighbor
threw out.  Black salve!
Thick black salve spread with a match on a scrap
torn from a paper bag is what
a cold-cream jar means to me.

Black glassy cinders paved our drives,
our table scraps fed roses, sugar sacks
dried dishes.  My Mama would be amazed
at this sudden new trend – I wish she could see herself
leading us, in her turned hem, toward the future.

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