the museum of americana

a literary review

Autobiography — Poetry by Gale Walden

 

In the dining room the baby
is crawling on the braided rug.
Around and around the table
she goes. This is important
to itself in the telling of the story
of the girl’s life which is important
to the baby only peripherally.

In the archway between the dining room
and the living room, the girl is four.
The mother is in the kitchen
separated from the girl and the baby
by swinging half doors.
In the side den the phonograph
is resolving itself over and over
into a song about heartbreak.

In the kitchen the mother
is her own magician, she
knows how to make things
float in Jello, how to transfer
her voice from womb to room
as she calls into the girl
not to let the baby touch wood.

But the girl is already revolving
like a record herself, she is already
grooving herself out into different songs
as she orbits from one doorway to the other,
the baby crawling toward the outer edge
of the rug to touch the girl spinning like a top.

The mother’s head and legs appear,
her whole middle a mystery
yelling, “Why can’t you do as I say,”
and because that’s not enough
she declares Buddy Holly dead.

The girl understands that anyone thin
enough to spin inside the record
will be dead. The girl understands
that the pain of the words and the guitar
could kill anyone, but she doesn’t understand
the mother’s anger which has now
harmonized with words and guitar.

Perhaps the mother sees
the type of magic the girl will come to;
that the girl will choose
what is not there, what
is in the air, floating
without benefit of slow congelation.

But this is later in the story.
Now there was a setting.
The wood in the doorway
was dark. It was summer.
The baby was already problematic:

It was the first time
I remembered music.

 

~  ~  ~

IMG_7125Gale Walden lives in Urbana, Illinois and is the author of Same Blue Chevy. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in multiple national venues.

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