At seven I sat low in the 54 Chevy sedan,
but got to stand to see the mighty Mississippi.
No seatbelt to hold me down, just the expectation
that a young lady would mind her p’s and q’s
even if that river sometimes didn’t mind its banks.
Mom adjusted the AM dial to bring in Quincy,
big town on the river, a long hour from home.
Getting there was worse than waiting for the
sparrow reading group to finally end.
We bluebirds read last and fast.
Mother entertained with stories of my birth.
Dr. Harlan holding me high and after a swat
to make me wail, a part of the story appealing
as canned lima beans, she mimicked his voice.
”Narrow heels, high arches,” man’s gruff chuckle.
“Her shoes will cost you a fortune.”
At this point, mom always laughed though
there was a creaky hinge in her throat, like opening
the little box that held her carefully gathered
egg money. At seven I knew we had no fortune.
The best part of the shoe store was the fluoroscope,
a boxy machine at the back where I slipped the
the new oxfords—brown or black and white—
my only choices. I got to peek through the scope
while the salesman, not yet glowing green, also looked.
Mother had her view and made deep-throated
hums as the salesman described the fit. Sometimes
in a bigger pair I’d look again into subterranean depths
and wiggle my ghoulish bony toes and dream
of wearing them exposed for Halloween.
I had to get away from home for cheap sandals
and frivolous flats on August dog-day sales.
The shoes were cheap, the foot surgery was not.
My mother, eighteen years dead,
still shops with me for shoes.
When planter fasciitis hit I walked on squishy pad,
saw footprints flash red, longed for fluoroscope view.
Orthopedic ugly shoes at designer price.
I heard the hinge creak in her throat, in resigned
voice mother said, “Yes, we’ll take them.”
What We Can Create
Tea candles on lily pads float the pool.
All are lit and an exact one foot apart
so the flames are level and hovering
above the water like fireflies, like tiny tulips
of fire. A blanket of light levitates over water,
heat waves teasing macadam in hot August.
Precise, perfect, momentary, staged,
in art we have collective-caught breath,
human-created awe, epic epiphany.
And also chaos under water as ripples
move this one left, that one right.
On deck we gently nudge with long poles
Which grow heavy and nip the water
creating tiny moments of turbulence.
Wax grows thin in small metal cups.
Wicks consume themselves, flicker out.
Out of the dream state comes dissent.
“What’s the point of an indoor pool?”
A mighty chorus arrives from Ancient Greece.
“Yeah, we need the night sky, stars reflecting
back our constellation.” “A windless night
so the candles stay lit.” “No mere pond,
we need a lake, spectacular Crater Lake
to elevate and seduce the soul.”
And all who glimpsed above the flames
a flicker of wings and life as fleeting and
knew that beauty was always enough,
these few are drowned-out. The circus
offers sabers of light from Roman Candles,
a man and a woman of the cloth to pray
or tie a knot when lovers are overcome,
hawkers to sell ear plugs against the roar
of “ahhs” and “ooooohs,” politicians
to divide the waters and supply the wind.
“But we agreed on a windless night,”
says a small voice beside the porta-pots.
Have you noticed the moon is not photogenic?
Take a picture and a hole will appear on a black page.
That little circle, that disk falling from the hole punch
is the moon’s full face. Photograph the moon
from space capsule and grey nubs will fill your dreams.
You will never catch the soul of the moon
no matter how smart your phone, your camera.
Better to look at the moon with bare eye,
even when the moon is an empty eye socket
where a black vulture pecked.
Alone on a cloudless night you will know in your bones
how the naked moon fills naked eye.
No photograph, romantic song, drooling lovers,
or howling dog can leave you so moon lit.
Victoria Garton writes poetry as well as non-fiction features for the cattle industry. She lives on a ranch at Nevada, MO, and has taught English and Literature classes for Crowder College for the past 15 years. A recent Zoom Riverfront Poetry Series reader, her poetry has been in Thorny Locust, The Same, Quarterly West, and Poem. Non-Fiction has appeared in Working Ranch and Missouri Angus Trails. Her book Kisses in the Raw Night was published by BkMk Press, UMKC.