Some memories we carry are not our own
you may think this so obvious it bears no mention?
But her memories seeped into me so deeply
that I can hardly distinguish them from my own.
And yet there wasn’t anything particularly
striking about the woman.
On foggy mornings like these as I sat in a cafe
I listened abstractly as she chattered on,
about her life, travels. It surprised me she was a doctor.
For her time it must have been rare.
She was I believe closer to seventy than sixty.
She offered that she was born in Amarillo, Texas,
though by then she had lost her drawl but not,
I must say, her manners.
I think her name was Dorothy but could not swear to it.
It did happen forty years or more ago. Or she could have
reminded me of the heroine of the Wizard of Oz.
These are the tricks that memory plays on us.
It amused me to imagine her as a flapper!
She was girlish for her age and gave impression she had not wed,
as her body had a wooden quality such as one not rent by childbirth?
With each morning coffee her life came into sharper focus.
You may well ask why I did not more directly ask her about
her first love, her first heartbreak? I may have been distracted
or I was not then, in the habit of asking questions.
After school, one bleak Texas afternoon
she told me she found her house emptied
of people and possesions
except for a mattress on bare floor
and her saddle askew against the parlor door.
A letter pinned had instruction but no explanation,
to sell her saddle if she could or pawn in next town
and some bills for fare to rejoin family South.
She realized her Father had sold her horse,
and ran through the fields until she saw him,
stand alone on the other side of fence,
looking out at meadows that had been his home.
She called out his name and softly whistled .
She stroked his forehead and soft muzzle.
They leaned against each other a long while, until dark.
She told me her last act had been to sweep the floors
and wash windows, placed a jar of marigolds on window sill,
as a small token of pride for the life she had lived.
In the morning she lugged her saddle across the fields
to the train station and bought a ticket North.
She never returned to Texas or rode a horse again…
All these years I have held these memories
for her and felt them seared in my flesh.
It seemed that she had need of a stranger’s ear,
to let go of them and to hold them close.