The custodian greets me as I enter:

a middle-aged woman with brown hair and
an accent I can’t place, who says Hello, my name
is Cathy
let me know if there’s anything you’d
ever need!
I’ve just let myself into the building
where I’ll be teaching for a month, and hear
the rain still coming down in sheets outside.
I’m fearful of making wet puddles on the polished
floors of Washington Hall that Cathy has just
finished buffing— Or slipping and falling
on my butt, like I nearly did in the middle
of the Farmer’s Market, where Margo took me
to admire the fresh produce, eggs, and butter
and cheese from grass-fed cows. And the pleasure
of finding one tent selling homemade Persian
pickles and fig and lime preserves! I’ve read
that a weak butt can lead to injuries, so I’m somewhat
thankful for the extra padding there. But the coccyx
can shatter: that triangular arrangement of bone
located at the very bottom of the spine below
the sacrum, that in chickens and possibly other
related fowl has been likened to a pope’s or bishop’s
hat; and that scientists say is a vestigial tail, evidence
of our kinship with other creatures in the animal world—
including, I want to think, that bright blue horse
with silver coils and wings standing on the corner
of Main Street in front of the Wells Fargo bank.
Come back again, says the farmer selling radishes
and tatsoi. And Sorry for the rain, at least it’s not
a gully-washer.
Still, I wish I’d worn the green
rainslicker my husband lent me for this trip. When,
I wonder, will I see the sun in this quiet town
where I realize I’ve yet to hear someone say y’all?
Yesterday, a woman inquired how I liked it here
and I said It’s so quiet! But I take that back,
quiet can be good. I’ve actually craved quiet. Quiet
means I can read my books and write and go to bed
and do it all again without the usual distractions:
at least for a while. But my landlord has just texted
to say he’s installed cable, and now I can watch TV,
which is how I learn that a federal judge has just ruled
that not only must the Trump administration allow
current DACA recipients to reapply, but must also accept
new applications. Why does time go trickle-slow some days,
then like a train or a bullet arrowing dangerously through
the quiet? Around the statuary here, the lawns are trim
and green and thirsty, which means that soon it will be
the season of lawnmowers. Everything is a historical
marker, but someone has to ask: who mows the lawns, who
takes care of the graves in the cemetery, who puts up
the white tents and rows of plastic seating on the mall?
Will my daughter remember to water the African
violets along with the air plants, perched atop white
and yellow and rose quartz in their little dishes?
And I can’t stop bending the first joint of my thumb
that’s been hurting for over a week, little hinge
that brings me back to my body like a stress ball,
like an old coin, like a prayer bead when my mind goes
wandering over fields of worry or sorrow. Next door
there’s a mini golf with a mural of Stonewall
Michael Jackson moon-walking, one red glove
on his hand. It’s weird to think he could be singing
“There are people dying/ if you care enough/ for
the living/ make a better place/ for you and for me.”

(Lexington, VA)

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