At the beginning, there was the lakeshore
and the big, blue hills, and I asked for
weiners and beans every day for lunch,
until my sister was born and she wanted
chicken noodle soup, so then we ate
chicken noodle soup.
Before life got dark, there was laughter,
sunshine, a long line of laundry
on the clothesline. My parents
had a big garden; my mom preserved things.
My dad made wine, a pillowcase of grapes
hanging on the doorknob, juice dripping
into the bucket below.
This was before my grandparents knew
that I was alive, before dad's divorce
so they could get married, before
my grandparents came to meet me
and loved the pretty town full of orchards
so much they moved there; before the
glamorous aunts and uncles all died,
their faces on grainy old film emerging
from my grandma's cottage smiling,
Only one of them now still alive.
Before the drinking and the violence
got so bad that I emerged shellshocked,
child of trauma, numb, voiceless,
finding safety in my grandma's house
on Christleton Avenue, where she
taught me to live, and that life could
be peaceful, serene, so quiet
you could hear the old metal clock
on the kitchen windowsill
tick-tocking in every room.
"I never knew survival was like that.
You look back and beg for it again,
the hazardous bliss before you know
what you would miss."
for Wild Writing by Laurie Wagner. Inspired by "Before", by Ada Limon. The italicized lines are hers.