Violet petals lay delicate betwixt my fingers as I weave stems through each other. Birds sing their presence over the lake that laps like a tired tongue over pebbles, smooth with the softness that only comes from years of kissing the same water. Boats row gently over this blue pool and circle each other in arched loops, their waved tracks meeting and breaking into new peaks.
It is moments like these that I question my unwavering commitment to city superiority. This peace of nature seems to smooth my bones and carve new ridges in my brain- for what is true that cannot be observed in such Eden?
It is easy to sink into the tranquility of this afternoon.
Focusing on the task at hand, braiding my flower crown chain, I can’t help falling back into childhood memories of Nebraska field kingdoms and woven inaugurations with my sister. Her chubby three-year-old hands breaking stems and my heart with that childhood beauty always accentuated by time.
I’ve been thinking about us a lot lately, tiny Elizabeth and lanky me, as I take my post as a live-in nanny for two weeks in Chambery. The young girls, two and four, drive me back in time and send sentimental memories to the forefront of my mind as we embark on school days and camping weekends away.
To go back and feel that youthful version of freedom is a pipedream I would curse if ever felt to fruition. A warm idea, but I am thankful to lay on the coin’s other side, fingers tracing flowered memory with the real freedom of tracing any thought to its end.
Let’s tuck our shirts into our sinched pants
& flip our small bodies around metal rungs
like kids do. Limbs flying in unrehearsed circles
& eyes open and seeing everything below reality.
Let’s tell the truth like kids do, say
what you mean because you mean it.
No hesitation- just pure unadulterated thought,
baked just long enough to travel head to tongue.
The fountain of youth isn’t a fountain at all,
but the dissolving colors behind pressed eyelids.
Dizzy heads and sticky fingerprints collapsing.
When did we trade drugs for what is just below closed fist?
This pilled fantasy of bursting universes
is never quite the same.
It smells of chemical static,
that chalked taste that giggles us into our youth.
We can still be kids in the way
our eyes close together.
In the way we cling to the ceiling
& imagine a life upsidedown.
Have tea with me here.
We can use the fan’s wings
as spiraling seats,
& the center bulb as our kettle.
I’ll pour you invisible light in hanging cup
& you’ll pretend to taste
because I say I do,
& it’s true.
This empty gulp of conjured air breathes
down our necks & we are okay
because we think love is a song
our parents sing to us.
I am happy because being a girl means more childhood choices.
How sad for you trapped in two-legged trousers
when I can trade them for dresses, blue and pink make violet
if I feel like it.
Who knew the world wanted my choices to end in fashion?
Thank god for the 21st century, not perfect but malleable,
but do I mean that? I do, I think.
But let’s stay here,
where the future means walking on the floor,
letting gravity seep into our pores, spitting love back in the cup,
& finding temporary happiness in cocktailed playgrounds.
As we rolled our four wheels over gravel, our small company arrived at the Detente et Clapotis campsite. A swift tour of the grounds discovered the perfect pitch.
A plot of land extending under shade and spilling green into the sun. Surrounded by the cover of trees and the tan walled back of the shower building, we were allotted a balance of privacy and access.
Quickly, we unpacked bags and boxes, snacks in metal tins and wine bottles in blue plastic coolers.
I unfurled a gray and green tent just like the infomercials. One springed release and there lands your crawl space home. Screen portal zipped like a shallow fortress against the campsite league of ants and insects in the night.
I can’t remember the last time I camped, at least like this. Spine straight on thin padding you close your eyes and pretend is a real mattress. Nighttime chills and morning dew staved off by the tight wind of that nylon bag, tucking your toes like a child.
I like it. The smell of wild mint underfoot at daybreak and the smell of wood and fire burning like the setting sun.
Finding a personal plot with an adequate amount of grass and an absence of stoney gravel, I staked my tent’s four corners and settled into this modern semblance of original life.
Dinner was three-minute pasta, a plastic scoop of tomato sauce, and a serrated sprinkle of parmesan, perfect. Taking my pasta slow, I sat back and listened to the stream of french voices bouncing mouth to mouth among my new friends.
I can follow most of the conversation, the subject landing, and sentiment loading, like watching a film with a two-second audio lag. My ears pick our keywords and capitalize on them while my voiced sentences are broken and basic, sticking to the present tense and walking my vocabulary around what I want to say.
Where do I run when home was you but now
I guess it always lived in me.
Mother tongues glaze over my ears in ways I cannot understand
& with you, I could say whatever I wanted.
Your friends lapped up my words with fresh ears
while you rolled your eyes, knowing all my stories.
These tales of the past & moments with you I want to speak
but can’t. Not for lack of memory
but of language among this foreign present.
Here, past tense is as hard to formulate as the thought
of you, forced to stay in past without a goodbye.
I work. Straining my ears to hear the meaning
in words I don’t know. My mind filling in the gaps
and glazing over your memory, practicing
the living of the present.