Lost to View

©2010 Jennifer A. McGowan

First published in the Fall 2010 edition of the Connecticut Review

  1. Now, as she looks through the window,
    the hills spin clouds in thistledown whorls
    that settle and shift in strands that vanish
    when they've stretched too far.
    She looks at her cooking-a bowl of
    egg whites, unbeaten, a sad pile of lemon zest-
    and knows the truth isn't here.
    Pushing her hair back with one hand,
    other on the small of her back,
    she stretches. Weary muscles pull and strain,
    and a yawn breaks over her like a wave.
  2. The day can only get shorter. She
    rummages in the garage, and under the tent
    (still not packed from last season)
    she finds her bicycle. She doesn't mind
    the rusty old-fashionedness of it, the willow
    basket for shopping, the arcane ritual
    to be performed with the chain before each outing
    if it isn't going to lock gears. She bends,
    tests the tyres, frowns and fetches the pump,
    feels the pressure grow under her hand.
    Satisfied at last, she wheels out, only just
    remembering to close the door behind her.
    Through the window she can see her keys
    on the table. She consigns them to hell
    and flies, feet pumping, to the vanishing point.
    Her body works, her mind soars:
    kitchens and bills, debt and petty worries
    spool off into blanketing mists. Like thread
    her life unwinds, until she is just blood
    and sweat, a pulse of heat in the crisp cold,
    a flash of rusty purple travelling at speed.
    She is a micro-climate, her atmosphere
    thinning with each breath. Her gasps
    rise to the summit, and she strives
    for freedom, or what remains after tears,
    sex, and mortgages. The mist obscures the plains,
    and she is safe, another mote
    on ancient islands; inland seas stretch on.
  3. In her time here, she has seen
    rabbits flow over the ridge like treacle,
    larks shiver and huddle in the furze.
    Enterprising buzzards, too damp to fly
    but hungry, stalk proudly and
    feast on worms. Three sheep pass,
    and then a minute, and a month-old lamb
    lost in a tangle of bracken bleats, its mother
    unsympathetic and hungry, moving on and lost to view.
    She remembers, stretches. Turns to face
    the downward path. Rides slowly,
    hand heavy on the brake. Spirals down.
    No obstacle but expectation. Falling dusk
    reveals the windows lit, a figure waiting:
    her daughter whipping meringue, watching the dark fall
    and idly stripping a lemon of zest.