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Here’s an Empty Horse

Let’s begin in Unionville: where you entered the two-room schoolhouse,
four grades to each side, waited to get beyond the wall
dividing you from your cousins. Where you swam in Bald Eagle Creek,
water flowing toward its confluence with Spring Creek, then oceanward.
Where you lived side by side, so close so close, with cousin Georgiana
and Aunt Beatie who hosted the best Halloween parties
in the house that mirrored your own. Where Christmas eves meant
restless sleep, waking to tinseled trees, trains, and sand tarts so thin
you could see through them. Just the usual—you shrug—
but you know, things aren’t usual anymore.

You conjure your once-usual Unionville church this way:
Visualize it as pristine whiteNow it’s violent pink,
not even a pretty pink.
 Windows no longer stained glass,
but peak still cupola-capped. A lady artist bought it, sells antiques there.
At your Tyrone church where you’ve prayed and served for 75 years,
you are now the valuable antique (and you have the certificate to prove it).

Tyrone, at the T of two rivers, where you picked up again with
a Pennsylvania girlhood after a stint down south. Where your friend
Sally had a sister with a horse, and when the sister left for college,
her parents drove the two of you out along the Juniata, saying:
Here’s an empty horse, waiting for someone to ride. 

Lois, only child named after your mother, you married
another only child, bore one child, named him after his father Bob.
Bob your son doubled your bet, then doubled it again:
Two sets of daughters from two different marriages
and one set inherited your horse love. Photos show the girls perched
atop sleek chestnut backs, trim in their riding gear, dark ponytails flowing.

And now one grandchild, Kristin, offers another gift:
twin great-grandbabies born last fall. In the lobby of your now-village,
twin birds —one lime green, one sky blue—suggest your life’s pairings:
you and a horse moving through the moist air as one,
your cousin couplings, the bonds of husband-wife and mother-son.

Your 90 years have made you fluent in the language of arrival and departure.
You leave and rejoin. Your life thins and twins, doubles and splits,
a life of union and division, of addition and subtraction.
Eight years ago, Bob departed this earth from Denver, his heart
giving way. Pneumonia recently transported Georgiana beyond.
Last September, your son brought family from the Continental Divide,
gathered friends for your birthday party, hosted dinner at the “Nifty Lion,”
took you to the shore—Cape May, where Bob rolled you oceanward over sand
in a chair with bubble-wheels, stood behind you clasping your shoulders,
while the sea whispered at your side: Come, Go, Come back again.


©2017 by Alison Condie Jaenicke