Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Word is "Vulnerable"

It is the cold time.

When I think on Keeling from here in my life that has run from poverty past sufficient to plenty, I think of summers, with blackberries found on spider-ridden brambles or of trees that harbor all manner of insects but usually something outstanding like locusts that shed their skins when they grow out of their previous selves.

Sometimes it is spring that I snatch from my brain's long thing gray lines of axons and dendrites--cobwebby and spidery at the same time. If spring, it is buttercups--single, doubles and scrambled egg ones--that my grandmother Tommie says were spread down Hwy 70 when the state put the road in across the front of her daddy's land, taking their front yard and its many drifts of bulbs and redistributing it for miles. Years later, buttercups lined the road a ways down where I lived in a house trailer on family land.

I rarely think of cold times. Funny how I can think of the many fireplaces and wood stoves, another favorite recall, without drawing a line to the chill air that drives us to them. But wood stoves were also for cooking, and I usually prefer to jump that particular synapse, which leads inevitably to strong coffee in a tin pot, biscuits, and the safe, gentle woodsmoke smell of Granddaddy.

If I took the other path at the memory junction of cold times, it would lead to electric heaters that must be kept clear of all paper and cloth so they won't send the trailer up in flames. I learned, when our neighbor lost his, that a trailer home is the most efficient incinerator outside of a crematorium. All heat and combustion is directed inside, with only the exploded windows to leak out any flames. And they are too busy respirating the whole conflagration. Hungry fire sucks and sucks oxygen. Everything inside the metal walls is dust by time the volunteer truck arrives. Walls melt. Only the iron undercarriage lasts, and it's a warped mess.

Or I think of the electric stove, which my mama would turn on and leave its door ajar to add a little warmth to the kitchen where breath could be seen. The light bill will be high, but I cain't help it. We cain't freeze. We didn't freeze. We shivered. The water line froze, though. Lots of times. Once, on a rare time when my daddy was around, he came to thaw the pipes while mother worked and we were at school. He managed to set light to the bottom of the trailer while using a blow torch to warm the lines that came up under the bathroom. Didn't burn much. Just left a mouse-sized hole after he patched it up. Jack of all trades; master of none. At least I could finally wash my hair, even if it meant goose bumps.

Summer means vegetable gardens and neighbors who lets you pick corn.

Winter means burning up precious calories staying warm.

Summer is up a tree; winter is under the covers all day.


When Adrian and I moved back to Germany the last time, the oil furnace of the base housing row house put out so much heat it stifled me. Adrian was fine. Ariane had never known want. I gasped and woke up with warm hands on my lungs, pressing out the air. We learned to leave a window open near the head of the bed on my side. Drafts of icy air slid down my throat, pinked my nose, prickled my ears. That's more like it.