Manzanita Park

By Clare Flanagan

 

How did I arrive here

from where I came —

the tree limbs, the cold lodestone rock

that pulled me as a child, called to ascend

til the branches bent? I named

every hoof-beaten path

in the backyard woods, stalking birds

& berries through the dusk hours, grown voices tearing

through the box-elders, calling out

to me. I labeled maps

in thin script, hidden still

in a Midwestern basement, slipped

between half-

finished canvases and pipes

exposed. My blood ran

with the knowledge

that I would become someone. So how

did those winding trail-lines

take me here, where I feel

I have forgotten all intention? It’s a nice patch

of grass, sun-saturated. They ringed it

with buildings, named it

for the small apple trees, drought-

stunted, frozen somehow

in girlhood. In their thin shade

I read the same sentences

over and again. I am learning

how memories are encoded – traces, sketched

in neural pencil, brain-buried,

smudged bolder when  they’re called

to the surface. Or perhaps

they leave the hippocampal bowels, float finchlike

to the cortical branches, sing clear

and independent of time. I think of this

as I gaze through the twig-fissures

at the California sky, sift

through decade-old networks –

buckthorn-woven, strung

with cattails, near-embalmed dreams

of being President, or

a vigilante queen. These days

I want less for myself. Before I leave here, before

I read the chapter on forgetting,

I think I’ll become Ophelia –

sink small under the lush square

of manicured grass, the green pool

deflecting voices that say

come back. Flesh

falling away like a wet dress, bone exposed

as the stark backyard granite, the boulder

ringed with tiger-lilies. How I

would strive, thin-armed, to pull my weight

to the rock’s crown, slip

down. How

I would try again.

 

Manzanita Park

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