I want to be a farmer of words . . . strictly organic . . . knowing each word I've planted will produce something sustainable. I want to master the husbandry of words . . . know what it takes for them to grow strong and viable, to see words sprouting in a field that I have made ready . . . to know which to cull and which to feed. I would rain on them from porch swings or Paris, fertilize them with prayer and presence.
I want to be a mad scientist of words . . . an anthropologist of words . . . and spend some time as alphabet-sous chef to William Least Heat Moon.
I want to put on a little lace camisole, a short ruffly skirt, some well-born cowboy boots and go out dancing with words . . . in the French Quarter to a Doobies cover band . . . I want to taste Jack & Coke on the mouth of words . . . words against my neck . . . words that have a houseboat on the river not far from here
. . . words in rivulets . . .
I want to be a field surgeon of words . . . the triage of words . . . able to keep somebody alive with words alone.
I want to debate words at Oxford and win.
But I will remain a recluse in a cabin on the northern Atlantic coast of words . . . to be found months after I've published posthumously . . . famously unknown.
~ Leeanne Seaver
It’s that time
when all creatures still and watch because I am now noisy
snapping twigs and crushing acorns under boot in my golden forest
on the edge of my faded garden watching my own breath swirl circles by my head daring me to
as my body wrapped in down shudders
and questions the change of weight against itself
the color in my red cheeks and nose feels bright, not warm
I bend to bury my stinging fingers in the warmth of my dog whose covered in beautiful burs
resisting their own demise and
summers last attempt
Young, enthusiastic, and giddy with a job which offered more than minimum wage AND included benefits, I wound my way down the country roads on my way to work. The sun rose optimistic in my rearview mirror—my 72 Catalina hugged the curves, floating over the bumps and potholes, her old head lights startling the occasional skunk or rabbit. I had landed my first teaching job—unheard of in 1982. My fellow Michigan State University graduates had moved to Texas or the West Coast, and bumper stickers read “The Last One Out of Michigan, Turn Out the Lights.” I had applied to every school district in a one hour radius of our newly established home. One principal called, I interviewed, and he offered me the job. I taught high school English in a paint-chipped, leaky classroom in a small, southwest Michigan district. I had five different professional outfits, two pairs of sensible pumps, a faux-leather briefcase, and a twenty-three-year-old’s optimism and innocence. And I struggled, too ashamed to ask for help, willing to take on more and more as the daily assignments and themes piled higher and higher on my desk. But “what a lucky break” and “it’s a great opportunity” and “just keep trying” constantly played in my head, blocking out the threatening clouds, fatigue and despair.
So, I cherished this thirty-minute drive through southwest Michigan, and as the year progressed—and my energy level and enthusiasm sagged—I cranked the AM station higher and savored the sights on the way. The same cars met me every morning, the same deer scavenged in the winter snow, the same trees began to bud, and the same little man waved at me every morning. I think I noticed him in early March—probably after we experienced the “spring forward”-- standing by his garage in his little gray work suit, holding his little gray lunchbox, sipping coffee from his little metal coffee cup, his thermos upright on the ground. He tipped his cup at me. And then he was there every morning. I waved—he tipped. I smiled—he smiled. Oh how I loved rural America! Pretty soon I began to roll my window down and extend my hand in friendship, waving wildly as I passed—you see it was too early to sound the horn. If horn sounding had been acceptable, I would have toot-toot-tooted some cheerful tune for him. The smells of early spring, the sounds of the wind passing, all buoyed me as my little, reliable friend cheered me on. I told my co-workers about this little man. I pointed out the house to my husband. I thought about pulling into my little man’s drive, saying hello, and sharing a morning cup with him. What a great country! It couldn’t get any better.
The first day of April, I hummed along, anticipating spring break, extra sleep, and a much-needed reprieve from my teenage students. My hourly lesson plans scrolled through my head. Everything seemed in order. I followed the curve, and my little friend’s house was in sight. I extended my hand, turned to smile, and there he was—naked—just standing there, slack-bellied and expressionless against his garage. No coffee cup, no thermos, no little gray uniform. A fuzzy electricity slithered down my spine to my toes. I gripped the wheel. I looked straight ahead. It couldn’t be. It couldn’t be. Not my little friend. Maybe he was wearing a nude colored jumpsuit. Did they make such things? Maybe they changed the color of his work clothes. Did they make flesh colored work clothes?
I think there was— probably still is—something in my face which must invite such behaviors. “You have an open face,” a friend once told me. ”People will tell you things.” (This friend is a retired psychiatric nurse—that should have been my first clue that this face could result in such behaviors from strange men.) I had been flashed several times while a student in East Lansing. I had lived above a thirty-something flasher when I student taught in Battle Creek. And now I had been flashed by this little man, tarnishing my Mayberry countryside.
I knew that appearances aren’t always what they seem. People can surprise you. It was like the time my brothers and I were part of the Buckaroo Roundup Show in the sixties. Sleepy-eyed, we watched the show every Saturday morning in our pajamas. From our couch, we admired Buck’s cowboy accent, his confident smile, the way he spoke to the “Buckaroos” in his audience. One Saturday my mom and dad dropped us off at the television studio in our new cowboy boots and crisp western outfits to be a part of Buck’s young audience. We perched on small bleachers, smiling when the cue card said “SMILE,” clapping when the cue card said “CLAP.” And when the television camera was off, Buck snarled, telling his stunned Buckaroos to “Shut up!” and I heard him say to the woman applying his make-up, “God, I hate kids.” Suddenly Buck’s smile wasn’t quite so sweet—his buckskin costume not quite so genuine. I wrapped a protective arm around my youngest brother, checking to make sure my other brothers were within my reach. So you see, I should have been skeptical of my pastoral drive and the little man. I should have somehow seen the truth coming. But I didn’t.
I survived my first teaching placement, receiving a glowing evaluation and an invitation for another year of the same. A linen suit and a pair of boots made their way into my closet, and my glasses lost their rose-colored tint. And I changed my morning route. I finished my year traveling different roads, but my new path wasn’t nearly as sweet. The red-wing blackbirds trilled along the ditch banks, as the spring uncovered the litter decorating the sumacs and cattails. The red barn sported fresh paint and a neat paddock, but behind the white picket fence, the lone farmhouse’s curtains were drawn tight.
~Kathleen Oswalt Forsythe
Photo is the property of Leeanne Seaver Photographic www.seavercreative.com
I yearn for Norman Rockwell perfection
Moments forever suspended in time.
The family gathered. The bride blushing. The children sharing.
Tiny glimpses of heaven.
Norman tugs at me, he breathes in my ear, he's rarely satisfied.
The beautifully appointed table, the rosy-cheeked children, the eternally-patient-mother--
Always just beyond reach.
Yet I have moments--my own snippets of heaven.
Dimpled toddler hands
steamy, strong coffee
my husband's blue eyes
my child's hard-fought happiness
laughter with a friend
my perfection. my legend.
But I'm forever Norman's girl.
~ Kathleen Oswalt Forsythe
Tired and bleached
from endless sunny days
always expected to please
they bow down
they welcome the cool nights,
and the abandonment
of the sun
fall sleepy to the world
under a blanket of leaves
A snapshot of this day is framed and tucked away in my memory’s photo gallery,
The field waltzing with the vibrancy of yellow mules and purple lupines,
Magnificent Gros Ventre Mountains towered behind us keeping watch,
The beauty of Wyoming cradled our essence in her palms.
The field waltzing with the vibrancy of yellow mules and purple lupines,
Potatoes sizzle on the fire, boys explore nature, the family re-connects.
The beauty of Wyoming cradled our essence in her palms,
Clouds were visiting others, the woods friendly.
Potatoes sizzle on the fire, boys explore nature, the family re-connects,
I am exhilarated by this encounter with nature and those I love most,
Clouds were visiting others, the woods friendly
This was not a dream, it was my perfect day.
~ Chris Kosiba
like a garbage disposal turned on without warning
so loud and guttural
and so uncontrolling!
“Enter the room like a cat” in frustration Mom would say.
I laughed and giggled since the beginning she’d say.
I laughed when I wasn’t supposed to
learning the hard way.
With friends and family, even strangers and TV,
I found it irresistible that laughing and me.
I am stiff in the morning and my feet like to swell and when I look in the mirror
those wrinkles do tell
I remember the lift of Dorothy Hamill’s perfectly coiffed bob as she executed the signature camel spin. At 13, I sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the RCA, studying her grace and willing a sequin of her beauty to float through the screen and anoint me. It was with these hopes that I entered the Spurgeon’s Department Store and made my way with my mother and three younger sisters to the hair salon housed in the basement.
Every August since I began attending school ended here. My fate left to my mother and a middle-aged, masculine-looking “hairstylist” named Peggy. Of course, I never had the nerve to trump Peggy’s insight before now. This time, I brought a picture. The picture. That’s what did it. Who could deny Dorothy’s symmetry and youthful glow, the sun caressing her short brunette hair, the same color of mine. Her blue eyes bright and pure, soft freckles sprinkling her cheeks, rose lips framing perfect white teeth--she was the girl I imagined I could be. All I needed was the haircut, and I could be the one on the cover of Seventeen Magazine.
I attempted to give the picture to Peggy, but her hand, still clutching a black comb from her last victim, remained on her hip. With little more than a glance at the magazine photo, Peggy tapped Dorothy right between the eyes with the comb and declared, “Yea, I can do it.”
I don’t remember searching the salon for another stylist, but I do recall the pool of regret settling into my stomach as Peggy tightened a black cape around my neck. Each pump of the chair cinched my chest, pushing perm solution from an unknown source into my nose and eyes. All indicators blinked danger, the airhorns bursting my eardrums, but I sat there like a coward, a damn bystander in my own life.
For 15 minutes, I berated myself, trapped in Peggy’s chamber and never facing the mirror. It was the sound of the clippers and the cool steel touch at my nape, that tasered me back to the land of the living. The buzz signaled the final assault. I imagined the glint dancing in Peggy’s eyes as she watched the clippers transform my femininity. She was the creator, the teacher, the victor.
When Peggy finally turned the chair to reveal her masterpiece in the mirror, all I could see was a two-headed, short-haired monster staring back at me. Peggy’s head was positioned directly next to mine. Our two heads unnaturally jutting out of the black cape wrapped around my neck, our brunette hair cut exactly alike, our faces generations apart.
“Whatcha think?” Peggy grinned, tipping her head toward mine in the mirror.
The tears I had restrained trailed down my cheeks, changing Peggy’s countenance from a round-faced grin to an angled glare. I don’t remember who said it, but I do recall hearing the pronouncement that most certainly had echoed from this place before: “It will grow out.”
As I waited for my three younger sisters to receive their punishment at Peggy’s hands, I stared into Dorothy’s happy face, wondering if any thread could really connect our lives. I hated her perfection. I wanted to blacken her teeth, to thicken her brows, to make her understand, but how could she? I simply folded the picture to fit perfectly in the back pocket of my jean shorts and waited.