Thirty years ago I joined the Connecticut Writing Project and haven’t recovered yet. Since then, I've tendered my drafts almost monthly in a writing group of other recovering CWP teachers. There’s a closeness among us we get nowhere else, as we share bits and pieces of our lives — our trials with truculent pianos, unpredictable children, and failing parents. Part is honing our craft, part is shaping our experiences, part is understanding who we are.
One Friday morning shortly before Christmas,
our teacher played quiet carols as we stretched,
finding our way from happy baby to child’s pose to
peaceful warrior. “Steady,” I tell myself. “Balance.”
Our teacher plays quiet carols as we stretch.
But in the next room, one long burst . . . gunfire?
and one of our yogis loses her balance and falls.
“We do yogurt in gym,” my six-year-old announced at breakfast.
But in the next room, another long burst.
“Not here!” I panic. But if it could happen there . . . .
“We do yogurt in gym,” my six-year-old announced
and showed me happy baby, then corpse pose.
“Not here!” I panic, but if it could happen there . . . .
and I try to find my way back to child’s pose,
to happy baby, but all I can picture . . .
that Friday morning shortly before Christmas.
The Stretch Limo
takes a wrong turn somewhere off I-95
on the way to the Hyatt in Greenwich
on the way to the senior prom. The kids in the back
sharing flasks, pay no attention. The driver stops
to ask directions, disappears into the bush.
The boys step out first, in tux and boutonnières.
“What the fuck!” they mumble. Then the girls
sink spike heels into dried, cracked clay
and one after another reach under their armpits
to hike their strapless dresses up a notch.
And gape at the landscape. They don’t recognize
Darfur, until now have managed not to see it
on the nightly news, the front page. One girl
becomes indignant when the vultures won’t wait
for a stick-figured family to die.
Some say the driver reappeared with better directions
the limo arrived at the Hyatt more than an hour late
and most of the chicken piccata was history.
The latecomers helped themselves to the cannolis
and danced till their clothing clung to their flesh.
Others say the prom-goers helped the stick-figured family
into the limo, arrived at the Hyatt on time, shared
their chicken picatta, and swung the laughing children
onto the dance floor, everyone now laughing
boogying, anxious to join the conga line.
But one French woman, a doctor involved in relief efforts
insists she came upon the family delirious, raving about
white children imprisoned in an obese car
sad white children who watched with averted eyes
looking and not looking through darkened glass.
As If She Were Unconnected
without parents, brothers and sisters
aunts and uncles, cousins; without friends
acquaintances, neighbors next door;
without birthdays, report cards; without
groceries to buy and laundry to wash; without
As if she were there waiting, always,
and even though he just appears
out of nowhere, there’s magic —
the magic of her waiting? of his arriving?
of what happens? of how magically
As if there were no strings attached
no afterthoughts, no yearning; no promises
not even false ones; nothing. Nothing at all.
And each time someone different:
perfect, willing, and, utterly, enduringly
©2016 William McCarthy
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