Why is it important that the day Michael Landon died I was standing half-naked in Lee Bennett’s bathroom examining my newly budding breasts? A constellation fixed in memory: how my grandmother had bought me a pink-and-black bikini the day before on the first chilly morning of the Northwest summer, and I had tried it on for her and for my mother—that one time—under the harsh light of a Target fitting room. “Hugs her hips good,” but the top was slipping off, and I was wishing already for something to fill the emptiness under his hands when pinned beneath the patchwork I imagined going the rest of the way—to where? Next door Elise Paul talks attentively on the telephone with a pink sweater pulled down over the hump of her knees. I can see through the window at this awkward angle the scrunchie clasping her newly permed hair. And the whole while as his body wriggles above me, strange simulation of sweat and groan, I am wondering what Rosemary is doing downstairs in her bright pleasant kitchen with its white eyelet curtains, red geraniums in squatty silver baskets, and cookie cutters dangling (year-round) from the spotless walls. So many stars, and a fir tree, and a different afternoon rolling dough into ovals and octagons: she, patting my head and smiling. Now a voice from the other room—“If you’re going to run through the sprinklers, you better do it soon,” sun flooding her face, and I step out in two pieces—strings taut, terrified of loss—and Lee in his swim trunks and a circus mask, and just then the voice on the radio informs us, “Michael Landon, beloved of many, has passed.”
In this humid place, my dreams a slough. Pillows soaked by sunrise. Eyes
crisp wicks, and burning. See the houses—skillful contrivance of brick; bright
trim; barely visible mortars. And the yards, unfenced, their aching, endless green.
I’m struck, at this distance, by how still it seems. Even the ants, stealthy, crossing
the paving stones. Camellias shed their weightless faces to the ground.
And listen to the sound of nothing moving—a catatonic wind, a cryptic flower.
You hold laughter in your throat until it ruptures, comes too loud. His ears are
shrubbed: assiduous, white hairs. What will blossom here? What dark eyes
pull back the curtains in the sun’s stunning glare to be seen in the act of seeing?
In my dream, I cannot wake you, cannot bend the sprigs of Gerbera and Marigold
in caveat formation. Vanity a gleam in your eye; hedges that swell elephantine—
deft, botanical borders. There was a time when we were only fig leaf and frond,
with your apron full of asters and my hair braided long like a fish’s tail. Deciduous.
Perennial. Those seedling words. Remember? Candles in the closet, linens on the
line, corn we cut clean from the cob.
Now what? A catalogue of hours, appendix of earnings grossed and saved. Do I sound
dramatic? Here the leaves are turning; the seasons shift with a wayward—there, I’ve
said it—wind. I cannot go again, cannot bend. Your world so golden, so kempt, so spayed.
Hems you won’t let down. A needle by the bed. A thread. Stitching the weightless curtains,
transparent under the shade. Morning, evening, it’s all the same. Sleepless, your Eden, with
its sun that will not set.
When You Speak, I Listen
the oroboros, undone,
its checkered and chain-linked
black-toothed, lascivious, thin-
stretching voluminous thread
cold body convulsing
in the white wind
tail back in its head
Julie Marie Wade was born in Seattle in 1979. She has received the Chicago Literary Award in Poetry, the Gulf Coast Nonfiction Prize, the Oscar Wilde Poetry Prize, and the Literal Latte Nonfiction Prize. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and teaches Women’s Studies at Carlow University.