Adele constantly played the twenty-year game. Twenty years ago I was thirty, twenty years from now, I’ll be seventy, counting years like a handful of coins, knowing they would be spent for trinkets, a pair of gold earrings or the mermaid wind chime sculpted from copper wire, its tail outlined in green with amethyst squiggles and silver glitter, a dream no doubt as all mermaids are but a tangible vision with a gold star in one hand and a blue shell in the other, and Adele held it in the breeze to catch the currents before hanging it on the ornamental apple tree outside their glass doors, an ageless woman with golden locks reminding Adele of the ballet dancers who hung in frames on her childhood wall, their forms perfect in pink, toe shoes never scuffed or dirtied, perpetually on point, waiting in this moment, unruffled by the past or future and later when she read “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” she thought of her ballet dancers and how lovely they would look encircling any vase, almost touching hands, the audience on the edge of their seats, waiting for Gelsey Kirkland to reach out from the ceramic, alive and offering Adele a charm, a talisman for longevity, a silver marble almost an inch in diameter, that she placed in her left palm, and suddenly she felt the continuity of it all, how the urn and Gelsey and the mermaid met at the center, life converged, and there were no tears since existence was a sequence of bubbles, fragile and full of color, busting into another and though Adele could see them vanishing into the distant light, she felt they somehow would continually be, not in her sight or that of anyone else standing on earth now, but the bubbles were always somewhere always becoming something new because today, June 23, was the day she felt, for the first time truly felt, those she loved endlessly around her, leaving snatches of notes and crumpled tissues to remind Adele that time was arbitrary and depended on limited eyesight but existence continued forever to wrap her in its threads.
That’s what it was, yes, the sun, a trapezoid on her bamboo floor. She wasn’t even sure if she knew what a trapezoid was, those days in geometry long ago, Mrs. Burgoyne in thick beige hose and a floral dress, exuding the mustiness of tobacco, and they stopped in their seats, held their breaths that Burgoyne would not single them out, ask for an answer, rapping the wooden desk with her nails. Yes, a trapezoid of light. Adele had remembered the shape after all those years, two parallel lines with uneven sides, the metal clothes rack on rollers, long shirts and short on plastic hangars waiting for someone to wash or iron or wear defined the side closest to the bed. Trapezoid. The sound, that’s what she remembered most about eleventh grade math, all those delicious words—perpendicular, quadrilateral, rhombus, isosceles, especially isosceles with all the s’s tickling her tongue. She would roll the syllables, listen to their sibilants whistle on ivory, and think of her new skates, the ones her mother bought at Loveman’s Department Store three weeks before Christmas. She handed them to Adele that day, a white box with white skates so Adele could slice parallel lines. Though her marks were often ragged, splinters glistening under Loveman lights at the store’s indoor rink, she dreamed of leaving the ice cut clean. Had she outgrown those skates and skating, giving them up for boys with pimples and their sticky hands, grasping, reaching like the tentacles of some kraken, leaving marks jagged and uneven? All that fumbling and pushing when no meant no or maybe or yes.
Chella Courington is a writer and teacher. With a Ph.D. in American and British Literature and an MFA in Poetry, she is the author of six poetry and three flash fiction chapbooks. Her poetry and stories appear or are forthcoming in numerous anthologies and journals including SmokeLong Quaterly, The Collagist, and the Los Angeles Review. Originally from the Appalachian South, Courington lives in California.
Mother/Father Poems@Califragile https://califragile.org/2019/06/
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