Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shoot to kill.

Christoper Blossoms
Valentine's Week 2010

I was locked out of the house. I do not recall how this happened. I don't know why my sister wasn't with me. It was long ago and some fragments of detail have broken free from this memory. I do know that I was 16. Also, very important at the time, I owned a white bikini. I loved that white bikini.

We lived in the desert, just outside of Apache Junction. Our property bordered the Tonto National Forest. We were at the foot of the Superstition Mountains. The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine was buried up there somewhere. The story of the Lost Dutchman was usually referenced in a comical sort of way, but I'd never been quick to dismiss such things. I was optimistic, but still unsure.

After living most of my life in Chicago, this was Wild West territory, for me. Mom had gone to Dallas. Dad grew a beard, shot rattle snakes, and decided to build his own house. When we were left at home alone, I was instructed to shoot to kill anyone daring to set foot on our property and come near my sister and me. I would always nod in agreement, but had secretly decided if such a situation occurred I'd go for the intruder's knees.

My English teacher was discussing poetry and she had my ear. We were experimenting with various forms and she responded to my work in a way that made me feel I had promise. I really needed that at the time. I think she knew. I'll never forget her.

I was a difficult student to engage. Fickle would be a generous description. But this felt different. It was as if the subject had been created for me. It didn't feel like work at all.

I daydreamed about words, placing them side by side, moving them from line to line, pronouncing them out loud, slowly, feeling every syllable, and then shaping and reshaping it all, over and over again.

So when I realized I was locked out, it wasn't such a big deal. The school bus had gone and even the dusty cloud it left behind was mostly settled. There wasn't much I could do. I decided to begin a new poem, hoping I'd be able to memorize it and write it down later.

It wasn't for class, it was for him. I was attempting to articulate my feelings. They say love at such a young age is not real love, but I disagree. Honestly, the core of what I believe to be love now and what I believed back then, they aren't so different.

I fidgeted and shifted about on a nice sized boulder until I felt comfortable, and then I began. I wrote and wrote, without paper or pen, and the time passed without my notice. I had not seen or heard a single thing for hours when Dad's truck broke through the quiet, kicking up gravel on our lonely road.

I looked up to a sinking sun, every dirty shrub and cactus glowing, and felt the air beginning to cool. I'd written a poem.

Was it for him, or for me? I'm not really sure. Both, I think.

I don't know what happened to my white bikini, but the poem, it stayed with me.

I remember each and every word.


  1. So lovely! Such experiences, such memories, are gifts.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Denise...I loved this..! Loved it. It's perfection, my dear. What a gift you have with words. A gift. Beautiful.


  3. I held my breath, thinking I was going to read the poem. Wonderful story.

    Oh, and I also loved the post about Portland. Shared it with my husband, who is tired of the desert and wants moss to grow between his toes.

  4. Ah you have the way with words!
    This reminded me of a poem by Pablo Neruda:

  5. I love this, so very different from my own youthful experiences in England. I would have gone for the knees too!

  6. beautiful. your words flow so smmoth and real. thanks for sharing!


  7. oh gosh you write really funny! i couldn't help but smile. beautiful picture of the cherry blossom. just gorgeous!

  8. Lovely. Lovely Denise.

    By the way. I made a post about the neighborly. Just for you.


  9. Love your words...
    Beutiful, how they just dance and bounce off the page.

  10. For some reason this post reminded me of the movie 'Murphy's Romance'. I'm not sure why, but I do love the movie. :)

  11. you are gifted. i am thankful to know you even though virtually. I used to write poetry, a lot, growing up...and then not sure where or when i stopped. I want to keep writing. thank you for inspiring me.

  12. What a most beautiful piece of writing. I very much enjoyed reading this......a white bikini hey? Every woman should own a white bikini at some point in her life :)

  13. I am particulary struck by the line about the way your teacher responeding to you as if you had promise...I wonderful thing for a teacher to do.
    I really really enjoyed reading this today on this snowy morning - yes snow in rome the first time in about 20 years I think all the old ladies are out on the balconies shouting.

  14. you speak to my heart with this one. makes me want to pick up my pencil and notebook again. thanks Denise.

  15. I love this. Your writing is fresh. I have had the same feelings about poetry and words. Thanks for putting it in writing for me.

  16. This was so nice to read. Such a vivid picture you paint. I was completely transported to this sunny desert spot.

  17. Tea, This is quite a complement coming from a woman with a newly published book. Thank you. Congrats on The Butcher and the Vegetarian: One Woman's Romp Through a World of Men, Meat, and Moral Crisis (what a great title!)

    Maria, Thank you so much : )

    Rachael (Levy), It is just a 16 year old girl's poem, but it's special to me. I can see where your husband is coming from. I needed a little green after my time in the desert.

    Tumbleweed Woman, I hadn't read that specific Pablo Neruda poem and I absolutely loved it. Thank you for sharing it with me. His work is so amazing.

    Kath, I'm glad to know I could show you something new. Life in AJ was an interesting period in my life. It was pretty crazy, but it's just another one of those experiences that made me who I am today and I'm pretty darn happy today.

    Lisa, Thank you for such a sweet note.

    Mart and Lu, I'm happy to know I was able to entertain you for a bit. Those blossoms are right outside my bay window. They bloom in February every year, the month my husband was born, so we call them Christopher blossoms.

    Abigail, Thank you.

    Diana, Thank you. It was a good journey back to my teen years.

    Life in Yonder (is it Anne?), Thank you for reading and thank you for explaining the "neighborly"--such a nice idea.

    Camilla, I must say...your comment is dancing and bouncing too : )

    Tracy, I hadn't heard of that movie, but I looked it up and now I must see it. Our property was in Pinal County, the same county where the movie was filmed. They were in the town of Florence. We played Florence in volleyball... It's a small world.

    Amelia, Wow, what a lovely comment. I'm blushing.

    Raina, I truly adored that bikini. I had such an attitude back then, I think I could have pulled anything off ; )

    Rachel (Eats), She was a fine example of how good teachers can really make a difference in the lives of their students. I don't know what inspired her. She lived in Scottsdale and drove way out to our little school and pulled into our gravelly parking lot in her shiny black Mercedes every Monday-Friday throughout the school year. She was beautiful, well dressed, and carried herself with such poise. She commanded respect. The trick was the unexpected respect she gave us in return. Enjoy the snow!

    Melissa, Pick it up! I know you'll be happy once you do.

    Kim, Thank you!

    Jessica, Thank you. I really enjoyed writing this piece.

    Ah! I just remembered it's computer-free Saturday! Darn. Logging off now...

  18. that is weird. I must have some sort of psychic ability, Denise. I had no idea. This is a small world, growing even smaller by the day...or the post. :)

  19. Tracy, Agreed. You must have a sixth sense. This world does continue to get smaller, in a good way. I watched Murphy's Romance on iTunes. So much fun! Thanks for the introduction.