Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
My Life #1
by Patti Trimble
Ah, Terra Linda in the 1960s when I was five years old, when my senses were open to the scents of earth, the very idea of a tree was new to me. Always Anne and me, hidden under pyracantha, drunk on that lovely sickening smell like armpit, like old socks, scratching in the dirt with a stick, inventing the human language of ourselves in the dusty dirt, two small girls.
My blue voile dress pinched at the waist, fit me until I was six, so I was the princess in plays, ten cents for the neighbor kids who flooded into the yard and sat on benches with fat legs swinging and bangs cut straight across. I don't remember the plots, but the object was to make our friends laugh. And I wanted to remain dignified and royal, while Anne played the prince and the dog.
I liked to think Anne was at my command, but the truth was that I was at hers. She would rather be a boy or a mute animal than act pretty in front of a crowd. She preferred to shove me out in front of her, poke me to smile and curtsey for the grandparents, make me act the sweet girl at Christmas dinner. I was often disgusted with myself.
How can I remember, it has been so long, the house was clean, so clean you could eat off the floor. A woman in a dirndl skirt still makes this claim in an alternate universe, singing inside a flickering black and white TV. And in that shadowed realm, my sisters and I still dance to Perry Como Catch a Falling Star. Each and every time it played on the radio my mother called to me. Come. Come and skip. Dance for me. Be innocent.
I myself named Dad's white stapler Moby Dick because it traveled across the table sea, and my box of crayons smelled like nothing else, each color fine-tuned as the color it should have been, cornflower/midnight/turquoise/blue. Color was more nourishing than food and everything afterwards refers back to that box of crayons: decades later my friendships with abstract expressionists, my own brilliant colors swimming in oil on a wooden plank, reds and greens and yellows brushed out to make a tree.
So language was born in dirt below pyracantha and color was first discovered at my mother's kitchen table, not just for Anne and me, but for the world. The world continually born. For each child, in some defined minute, a vision that remains.
Crayons, pyracantha, blue voile and black patent leather. Annie my prince and my dog, reflecting moons on linoleum swinging through November nights, fog billowing up from clams in the pot as Dad arrives home in his scratchy wool suit, hangs up his hat. How strange that his hat can be removed and reunited to his face, how it changes him, how unpredictable the world.
Patti Trimble has two new poetry CDs: "In the Middle. . . ." with Peter Whitehead ("a classic" says Bob Holman); and "Hello Heaven!" with Ramzi Harrabi. She's currently writing Sicily poems and a memoir of her abstract-expressionist mentors. Patti teaches for SSU OLLI, Pt. Reyes Institute, and Arcadia University.
Find out more: www.outofroundrecords.com and www.ptreyes.org/camps-classes-programs/field-institute
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