SMALL TOWN GIRL SEIZES THE DAY
In Defiance, Ohio there's a girl who doesn't yet know
she has will. Her life is a series of indifferent rituals:
Sundays on the marble steps she takes the dry host
into her warm mouth. She crosses herself and kneels.
She prays her house won't catch fire and that her father
will find a job. She prays for an A in Algebra. The devotions
come without thought. She has learned the necessary gestures.
She is told she is good. How could she be otherwise? At that age
appearances are everything and the very young mean to please.
In four years that girl will take a boy
from behind because she can't get pregnant, but still means
to please. Her own pleasure is learning to be tied to this.
It becomes a Saturday night ritual after talk and a movie with friends.
Soon she'll seek pain because it suggests that she's real. Pain, that close
cousin to pleasure. The impulse toward drugs or the adrenaline rush,
fear factor of jumping forty-five feet from a railroad bridge into river waters
of unknown depth will grow, will push through her body,
because it's through the body, not through a dead God, that one comes to know.
Their friends loiter in the backyard, badminton rackets
abandoned to the moist grass, martini glasses
having taken their places in pale hands.
A rare day of sun.
That morning she told him she was leaving.
She asked that he keep it together. Appearances for now,
no scenes. Her mind's made
like a sheet on a bed pulled crisply
to the head of the mattress.
All through the afternoon he keeps quiet.
He can't finish her sentences. He can look at her
because she's not seeing him. She hasn't said his name
in eight hours. His friends make no bones,
as if they, too, see her arms turn porcelain, foreign.
When he watches her gesture tightly, he knows
a year from now what he'll remember from this day
is the three o'clock sun, how it shined
against the ant-infested rind of a lemon.