Lost Girl

She is playful,
a mop of hair,
a puffy sleeved dress with a ribboned waist,
covering crinolines
and ruffled panties.
Mud is caked on the heels of her patent leathers.
She likes to remind me that she is still here,
wills me to let her out.
She doesn’t know what acceptable behavior is.
Certainly, a lady does not like the smell of worms after a spring rain
or long to play with the race track her brothers play with for hours on end.
She belonged with her always aproned mother
in the kitchen,
polishing the silver,
rolling out the dough,
tidying things up with her sisters.
The boys were allowed to do just about anything,
but not the girls.
I kept her away to avoid trouble,
to fit in,
until one day
I forgot about her.

Once in a while a memory drifted in;
the smell of salt water and Coppertone,
riding my bike on a leaf covered path,
or hearing my name whispered as I edged toward sleep.

And then, finally, it all came back,
in a flood of tears that would not stop.
She understood,
she had shed many tears herself
not for herself,
but for me
for the pieces I lost
and forgotten about.
She wanted to help me pull them in like a big fish dad would catch,
“turn the reel,
let it run a bit,
turn the reel, faster!”
Always a two-person job if the catch was big.

Sometimes the line would break,
water would get on her dress
water not from the fish, but from her eyes.
We cried a lot,
she hid a lot.
She could get very small,
it is hard to grow without oxygen.

I need her to grow in me again,
to take me to all the places she wanted to go,
the little cave on the side of the hill that smelled of dampness and dirt,
the creek with the dam that the boys down the street built.
(I was afraid of those boys.)
The secret place where you could see fireflies even in the autumn,
although I think she made that up.

I want her to grow so I can see what she looks like.
I picture her strong, and lean with a fierceness about her,
streaks of white and gray running haphazardly through her still curly hair
and the lines on her face bearing a story,
my story, my pain
mixed with great joy.

She has been here all along,
This not my story, it is our story.
I see her now,
She is standing here
holding a fishing rod,
here to help me pull in the big one,
once and for all.

Sherri Walker for The Poplar Grove Muse

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