Memoir Piece 2: “Ashes”


The land is in pools, mirrors. As if there were a flood and only islands remain, islands with the trees from my earliest memories–the wild apple blossoms, their pink and white petals falling like snow. I imagine him under there, in the shade of the silky blossoms, leaning back on an arm, picking blades of grass, his long legs muzzled in by the sweet alysum growing. His blue eyes look up through their long, long black eyelashes–the lashes I’ve inherited–and into the blossoms, into the purple sky. His reflection is still on the water. Peace. He’s found peace. He still wears the cream colored shirt with the brown vees from the shoulders to the chest, heavy in his strange scent that I can still smell if I remember really hard.

The white farmhouse, falling apart and filthy, stood on a sunken, lush lawn with wild apple trees that snowed pink petals.  He built us a swing under one of them, taking turns going higher and higher into the pink fragrance.  There was a hammock tied between the two trees and we spent afternoons lulled in it by the bees, fat and humming.  We picked from the plum tree, he pulled us in a wagon behind the rider lawnmower, we climbed ancient tractors, we walked in the fields with the big, round hay bales.  There was a pig in small barn, I loved the thick mud and even the suffocating smell.  Family came and went as if they’d never grown up and left home.  Most of them were alcoholics, some of them were borderline pedophiles but they were eventually pushed out of the circle.  My grandpa Leo was an old white haired man with a huge gin blossom nose, sitting in his chair.  Drinking.  The kitchen was warm and old, with a large wooden fork and spoon above the oven.  My grandma Helen had chipped, blue China plates.  The floor rolled in hills and we road our trikes around.  I don’t remember him ever leaving our side on those weekends he had us. Read More

In Your Absence by Judith Harris : The Poetry Foundation [poem]

In Your Absence by Judith Harris : The Poetry Foundation [poem].

In Your Absence

By Judith Harris Judith Harris

Not yet summer,
but unseasonable heat
pries open the cherry tree.
It stands there stupefied,
in its sham, pink frills,
dense with early blooming.
Then, as afternoon cools
into more furtive winds,
I look up to see
a blizzard of petals
rushing the sky.
It is only April.
I can’t stop my own life
from hurrying by.
The moon, already pacing.

Poem copyright ©2007 by Judith Harris, whose most recent collection of poems is The Bad Secret, Louisiana State University Press, 2006. Reprinted by permission of Judith Harris.

My Wild Child


Play is the poetry of the human being.   –Jean-Paul Sartre

For Justin

because I want you to remember

how I was once kind of beautiful

I will paint you pictures

and etch on glass                                                         

who I want to be

once this sickness of the year

leaves my poison breath

I so infected you with.

Oils in blue black dripping rain from my fingertips.

A house in the forest with one light on.

A scratched eye with a glint to tease

beneath long, lovely lashes.

I show you palette after palette

the mix I’m desperate at–where’s the right colors,

how would you like it, how am I sense?

I urge you from the door with blank canvases,

and I’m not one for persuasion.

Your hidden eye, your hidden pity

and goodbye.  I paint for myself.

Did I Show You, Love, the Moon Last Night?

Photo from Etsy

I haven’t stopped writing
for four days
a moment,
in its glass jar, holds a voice
that calls me–mommy? mommy?
and my breath is held–
did I forget
to show her the moon last night?
To show her the silence of the snow outside?
–so slow and pretty–
or the maps that the stars make?
did I answer her–Yes, my love,
I’ll live a long time–
I watch through glass–
her tiny silhouette among her quiet dolls;
I want to tell her
how time, like water, can slip through your fingers,
how sometimes we forget to look,
how days can pass like a sleep.
I take her to my desk
and teach her how to write
a poem, and she writes
one for me–I love my mommy–
and for a moment I’m pricked
with a fact–
one day, she might stop asking for me.