Category Archives: Assata and Annie

The Car that Brought You Here Still Runs, Most Days

The poet Richard Hugo, who grew up in this neighborhood when it was still filled with woods, once wrote:

The car that brought you here still runs.
The money you buy lunch with,
no matter where it’s mined, is silver
and the girl who serves your food
is slender and her red hair lights the wall

the lines are from the poem “degrees of grey in phillipsburg”
i sipped espresso earlier and wanted to write my own degrees of grey
the baby loaded canned food into a miniature stroller
and trucked around the house
i thought maybe i’d write after i got some Things done
paid bills, and laughed with the baby as he fed me raisins,
both of us laying on the kitchen floor
talking about birds,
each in our own language.
later i watched a raven alight on a power line in the wind,
then stubbed my toe on a can of tomato paste
scrubbed the diaper bucket
extricated a penny from someone’s tiny cheek
measured our unfinished windows for trim

that night while my husband fed the baby beans and rice
and the rain came down sideways
then paused to let a near full moon glow through wind driven clouds
I heaved opened the garage door
and laid out long pieces of smooth pine on sawhorses
Annie the dog laid by my feet, keeping a close eye on the outside
and i learned how to stain wood.
which turned out to be a much more mindful task than i’d expected
i made mistakes, noticed where i’d applied the stain too heavily
or where the shadow my body threw had fooled me into using too little
i think of my craftsman father while i work,
and Roger Lyons, who built things for his mother in this garage
when they were both old

these boards will become trim around the windows in our bedroom
which is drafty like a barn.
(on cold days we can see our breath before we get out of bed)
Once this piece of land had a barn,
with cows, chickens, pigs, and rabbits.
Annie Lyons raised 6 children in this two bedroom house
which she and her husband purchased at the height of the Great Depression
Maybe she went to church with Richard Hugo’s grandparents,
who raised him
and said little.
Maybe they shopped at the same neighborhood pharmacy
in a brick building that is, most recently, a Cambodian grocery.

i want to write about living in his old neighborhood
and being a waitress whose hair shimmers in the dark of a brewpub
moving in between close tables with a master’s degree
and a grace that she lacks outside of work.
She met ranchers with this kind of grace while doing graduate research in Nevada
men who could shear a sheep without nicking it once,
handling the hundred pound animals like armfuls of silk
who became all knees and scuffed boots in the kitchen.
she is a waitress who ten years ago kept the phone numbers men left
never intending to call a single one of them
just quietly flattered because she never thought anyone would find her beautiful
Now she knows the truth:
every waitress in the history of waitresses
has been loved for the duration of a meal
by lonely hearted diners
who coudln’t help but
“instantly feel a tender regard for her” as Abbey wrote.

I want to write about the timeless poetry of the unrequited waitress crush
and the quiet satisfaction of knowing that someone is a little awed
every time you hoist a tray to your shoulder
and take the stairs
but first i need to wash every dish we own
the baby is wearing soft pajamas with nonslip feet
and stacking blocks while the dog watches with her head cocked.
i am listening to ambient unclassifiable music that claims to be
moody and dynamic instrumental indie rock
or something
ought to drink tea now
but my espresso percolator is calling darkly to me from the burner
stained by a thousand rounds over the heat
handle missing, angular spout pointing toward an empty mug.

the car that brought us here still runs
most days
although the return of the check engine light is as certain as the oncoming fall.

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Filed under Assata and Annie, autumn weather, basic goodness, Family, motherhood, on writing, Ordinary, poetry, Poets, waitressing, watching it all go by

Annie jumped the fence this morning

Annie. Photo credit Andrea Fuentes-Diaz. http://www.afdphotography.com

Annie jumped the fence this morning
I drove loops around our neighborhood
Staring in vain down alleys
Hoping for a flash of white
But the only sightings were plastic
grocery bags on the wind

Stopped at the park down the street
Breastfed the baby in the drivers seat
And watched a dozen ducks startle
all at once scattering from the reeds
all at once settling together,
In a unified splashdown

At the church on 14th, the readerboard says only
Jesus forgive me.
The skies are slate grey and a cold rain begins to fall sideways
Pelting the clouds of pink and white blossoms
which burst from their buds a week ago,
and are now looking sort of sheepish,
like the girl in the flashy dress who showed up early for the party.
La Nina spring, they say.

I circle around the elementary school many times,
watch parents ushering their tiny backpack-clad progeny

go home to change the baby’s diaper, and
the neighbor from the strange yellow house across the street
comes down the driveway
to breathlessly inform me Annie’s been in her chicken coop
100 yards away this whole time.
there are few survivors, she says.
she has Annie locked in her house,
and i walk across the street to reclaim her
there is no sign of chicken carnage,
i catch a glimpse of the inside of the home
it’s the sort of scene you see on tv shows about hoarders,
dim and impossibly cluttered, with only a narrow aisle to navigate.
She rushes off somewhere,
and I’m left wondering what the bill will be

Later,
a friend calls to tell me of tragic losses.
i navigate rush hour traffic to pick up the car at the mechanic in lake city
as i drive onto the Alaska Way Viaduct
the radio plays a commentary on the likelihood of a tragic viaduct collapse
the rain is unrelenting
the card won’t go through at the mechanic
and i sit on the phone with the bank
until its sorted out
transfer the carseat out of the loaner car
as sheets of rain soak through my sweater
and crawl back into rush hour traffic in the other direction to pick up Ryan

on Northgate Way, i pass a protest at Planned Parenthood
women holding aborted fetus posters in the downpour
across the street a bedraggled man holds a damp sign
that says only
I need help.
I want to support his campaign but he’s on the wrong
side of the street

my husband and I drive back across town
to attend our weekly class on karma and the 12 Links of Inderdependent Origination
the baby crawls among the class participants,
making new sounds and playing everyone’s water bottles
and I stare through the big windows
at cherry blossoms hovering in the dark
thinking about effect
and cause

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Like Instructions for Dancing

This morning, I took the dogs outside
the neighbor’s chickens cackled
and a foghorn sounded a few blocks to the west
greysky
softskinned baby on my shoulder drinking the world in without concept
the squash plants are dying off in the garden
inside again, i realize:
when confronted with eight wet dog feet while holding a baby,
bending over to dry them is impractical.
it is easiest to simply follow them around the house,
pushing a towel across the floor with one’s toes
in so doing, i notice how much their footprints
are like instructions for dancing
and so we do

(listening to “i was made to love her,” Stevie Wonder)

Annie and Assata, photo by Andrea Fuentes-Diaz

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