Daily Archives: August 22, 2009

Uptown Out of Town: Virginia

En route to Bath County, VA to visit the grandparents, we tuned in to npr (WAMU) and listened to Writers Almanac.

Whether it’s because my in-laws, who grew up in relatively small rural towns, are getting older or because some of our friends are reaching the half-century mark and I’m not too far behind (just shoot me)… the following poem hit a soft spot:

by Jo McDougall

Meadow Lane on the Jackson River

Meadow Lane on the Jackson River

Growing up in a small town,
we didn’t notice
the background figures of our lives,
gray men, gnarled women,
dropping from us silently
like straightpins to a dressmaker’s floor.
The old did not die
but simply vanished
like discs of snow on our tongues.
We knew nothing then of nothingness
or pain or loss—
our days filled with open fields,
turtles and cows.

One day we noticed
Death has a musty breath,
that some we loved
died dreadfully,
that dying
sometimes takes time.
Now, standing in a supermarket line
or easing out of a parking lot,
we realize
we’ve become the hazy backgrounds
of younger lives.
How long has it been,
we ask no one in particular,
since we’ve seen a turtle
or a cow?

“Straightpins” by Jo McDougall, from Satisfied with Havoc. © Autumn House Press, 2004.

And with that in mind, in all seriousness,
look who wandered across the “Grands” front path the day we arrived:
Hi, I'm a turtle

Dear Turtle, Thanks for reminding us to stop and smell the roses, or in your case, to stop and spot the turtles and cows.
ps. “Grands” is my nickname for the Grandparents.