She is not she if she holds still

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She is not she if she holds still

She runs
down long flights, two-by-two,
down Westmount,
sloughing,
(like gloves dropped to the sidewalk unseen)
the studious girl of the uniform,
of the rules

—the runs are hers and quick, to home,
to her eager partner in freedom, russet dog—

then

she leaves the father eternally immersed in research,
the mother who lines windowsills with silent ferns,
plies them with silent care,
her children too
—heads out

Her young brain stows maps—strolls
along Saint Catherine’s or Sherbrooke, past
Ogilvie’s and the museum,
summits Mount Royal for grand aspects
of a wide grey Saint Lawrence
and thin dark shapes of silent ships on its cold flow

(She is not she if she holds still)

Years hence, when asked if she speaks French,
a woman will recall instead what mattered
to her then—the slow progress
of those silhouettes sliding across the silver river,
the companionable quiet of the calm dog,
the acceptance of fresh snow,
how smells of others’ suppers sent
her home in darkness

In a warmer town, the woman walks with a different dog
yet unfolds the same old city routes, follows
ancient mental maps, marches alongside
ghosts of girl and dog and knows
their own true reasons

The retriever, excellent walker,
protecting the girl from shadows,
allowing her roaming and telling the world

This is for me, this randomness

And this is true and not—
for dog to mark scent,
for girl to mark dashed lines, crooked or direct,
from home to treasure,
love to death, sense
to art

Their own true reasons

She loves me
Hear the black birds
Breathe in city smoke

 

Filed under Poetry

Pamela Hobart Carter loves Seattle as much for its water and mountains as for its bustle and creativity. She explores the Emerald City daily while walking her dog. Carter used to be a teacher who wrote on the side. Now she is a writer who teaches on the side.