by Christine Graf
Before I was born, before the wildflowers, I knew I would be a wound. After I was born, after the wildflowers, I knew I swallowed my mother.
I am four years old and it’s 1949. I live in a place where the yard feels like an open continent to my small body. Beyond the mown lawn, are tall grasses and a river I must not go near. The expanse of space is the territory where the body enters a new sense; where skin recognizes wind, and rain and earth smells for the first time. I am alone. My scuffed sandals are slathered in moist soil, my arms full of wildflowers picked for my mother. It is also the first time I learn the excitement of finding a gift for her I’ve chosen. I want to give her the river, the nickel colored sky, the blue behind a low slung cloud. It is the first time I remember her face in a smile, her black eyes filled with crystal before it is broken.
I go to the river, past the forbidden border, the edge. Roger the boy next door takes me there and shows me a turtle the size of a table with an upside down, leathery bowl on its back. Slow-moving, belly to earth, dark. I cried when I saw the turtle afraid of his strangeness, his sluggish body hidden as he lumbered down to the lip of the river for a swim. I didn’t know then that the turtle and I shared the same things; the earth smells, the surrendering arms of the mud, the open space of sky, the hidden swampy weeds. He carried the old world on his back, like an ancient uncle who holds his peace, while I carried the new world on my back, my arms full of flowers.
Christine Graf is a commercial and fine artist by profession. She’s been published in the Aurorean, Xanadu, Main Street Rag, Common Ground, Bryant Literary Review, Christian Science Monitor, Georgetown Review, Timber Creek Review, Hiram Review, Pinyon Literary Journal, Deronda, Theodate, MOBIUS, Chaffin Journal, Red Rock Review, Pegasus, Rockford Review and Green Hills Literary Lantern, Earth’s Daughters Journal, Front Range Review, Third Wednesday Journal, Edge Literary Journal, Cumberland River Review, Evening Street Review. Christine was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016. She’s the poetry editor of Studio And Gallery Magazine. She is also a poetry and writing coach.