Debra A. Daniel
Poetry book, 42 pages, $8 cover price
($6 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)
* * * Selected for publication as a result of finishing as a finalist in the
2008 MSR CHAPBOOK CONTEST * * *
About The Author
Debra A. Daniel was named SC Arts Commission Poetry Fellow in 2006 and in 1994. She was awarded the Guy Owen Prize in 2002. Her work has been published in darkskymagazine.com, Kakalak, Emrys Journal, Pequin.org, Inkwell, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, Gargoyle, The Poetry Society of SC Yearbook, The State, the Charleston Post and Courier, Inheritance: Selections from SC Fiction Project Winners, and Twenty SC Poetry Fellows. On the same day she retired from a career teaching elementary school, she accepted a marriage proposal. Now she sings, plays mandolin and percussion in an eclectic acoustic band, and is living happily ever after in Columbia, SC, with her musician husband, Jack McGregor.
What My Parents Never Told Me
If, in first date darkness,
watching Myrna Loy and William Powell,
he reached for her hand.
Did she think him fresh to attempt a kiss
and turn from his lips?
If, dancing at Twin Lakes,
he held her close enough
to smell the crescent of gardenias
curving the nape of her neck.
If, on their wedding day, his sergeant
in a stiff uniform and her sister,
sworn to secrecy, stood up for them
in an army chapel,
or if, in a polished wood office
only city hall strangers witnessed their joining.
Did she, in a borrowed linen suit weep
while he fumbled for his handkerchief,
tilted her chin to make a bashful dab at her tears?
If, with a twenty-four hour pass,
they honeymooned in passionate hurry,
woke to wrenching good-byes.
In a Pullman berth, spooning
through a Tennessee night, did he ease
her sleep with stories of his childhood.
Did each, aware of the other,
beseech a friend for a proper introduction?
Was it his hands, the dance of her hair,
his angled smile that caused one to notice the other?
It isn’t the not knowing that troubles me,
now that I’m past fifty, my own long-ago marriage
a chest stacked with starched regrets.
It’s that they weren’t desperate to share
the legends of their joining.
It’s the not telling.
That is what leaves me stranded.
What was left of us, we sold at a garage sale:
unmatched dishes, the blue canisters
that clashed after we wallpapered the kitchen,
college beer mugs, the vases
that once held yellow anniversary roses.
We tacked the date and address
of our decline to telephone poles
inviting speculation from Saturday strangers
who came to rifle through our leavings,
rummage for a tarnished keepsake.
On a rope between two dogwoods
we pinned outdated clothes, and a woman
searching for cloth to sew a patchwork quilt
fingered the frayed sleeves and collars
that remembered the shape of our shoulders.
What was left of us
we marked, As Is and Make An Offer,
keeping in an old jewelry box the small change
our trouble bought.
The trellis slumps from the twining
weight of trumpet vines or the rotting
of its wooden frame. Never mind
the cause, we pause to lift, to prop it
haphazardly against the brick hedge.
All this to protect the neighbor,
from her wild-eyed discovery
of our naked swimming.
The neighbor, a placid widow
behind plate glass windows,
spends endless hours eyeing
the island she created in the pond
we share behind our houses.
She has planted hibiscus,
hot pink and saucy, heart-shaped
elephant ear, and tall pussy willows
so that indifferent box turtles
could sun there and the lone
blue heron could linger
if lingering became its desire.
The pond matters little to us,
middle-aged, newly married,
and kissing with tongue
the simple sweet-faced fact
that we swim naked
in our backyard pool,
that we crave swimming naked,
floating beyond wrinkles
and layers of laid-upon years.
The trellis will last through summer
and into fall while the water laps
warm and ripe. How young it feels
licking along bare legs, bellies,
the tanned skin of our backs
as we hold breath,
diving to touch bottom.