Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2019  Vol. 18 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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At Ten

I wanted to have a sheep farm in Vermont
with ten border collies. Floss and Phoebe,
Lucy and Rose: I could give you their names,
their colors and markings—I could say how
they’d thrill to my voice, come running
in streaks over the mountains, like stars.
I was sure of this, the way I was sure I’d
write books, or make cheeses, sure I’d find
myself floating down the Amazon one day,
backpacked and bandannaed, in search of some
never-seen plant. I hadn’t yet learned to be ashamed
of what I wanted. And I wanted a house
with bay windows, fields with different ducks,
and sheep’s milk each morning at breakfast.
I wanted my mother to come everywhere
with me, wanted to shrink her down and carry
her close, like a pocket protector. Every morning,
I’d watch her add raspberries to my toast.
And every morning, I’d tuck in my legs
and seatbelt my warm little bones and hustle
to some future I was sure that I’d want. And nothing
was perfect, no—not the crumbly erasers
in my knapsack, or the two-dollar sandwiches
I’d crush before hiding at school, not the loose-
collared socks drooping over my ankles, all day,
every day, like a garden in July. But my father
would drive past some Hudson Valley lake,
and we’d wait for the swans to light up
the north shore: a sure sign that things
were all right. I still believed in things
like that. Sometimes I was so happy I would
lie in the grass and feel it zip around me.
I didn’t yet know that I would strive for years
after nothing I ever wanted. I would live
in cities, I would put on polyester, long
to be one thing so fiercely that longing
would cut me in two. I would be a thing
to so many people, that my thingness
would wake up and look me in the eye.
That these things were still to come. I didn’t know.
I couldn’t. I was waiting for some swans to freckle
the lake, as I still do, though I know better now.
I want to see them pin two halves of a whole,
to make that notch between water and sky,
that bridge. I want that feathered thing
that holds together nothing.  

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