May 6, 2010

Linda Leedy Schneider

SHE HAD ALWAYS BEEN ABLE

to fall down deep into a flower.
The wall paper of the front hall
that held the phone
swirled with peonies.
She counted leaves and petals
as she listened to neighbors talk
of gardeners, the new minister,
and one husband who fucked. Peonies
swirled as she heard, “Now it’s the
teacher, Miss Rose.”

The first grade classroom
with its lighted aquarium,
gliding guppies, clean blackboards,
stacks of papers ordered by color
had been safe.
She didn’t need to count leaves,
petals, or panes of glass
to settle her mind
until she strayed and listened in
on that phone call

Mr Clay with Miss Rose,
he putting his root
into her naked skin.
The thought made
the green walls pulse in and out.
She began to count chalk,
papers on the bulletin board.
Mr Clay had three children.
Mrs Clay was crying.
She counted and recounted
her fingers and toes.

She stepped over every crack
on her way home worrying
her mother had died or
taken her clothes off
with the postman.
She washed her hands
five times in the empty house
before going to
the swirling peonies
to pick up the black phone.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004