For Chloe, on Turning Eighteen
Write a letter, I’ve heard it said, a letter
to yourself at eighteen, though you may be
forty or sixty, as far from eighteen as nobody’s
business. It’s your business to look back
at any age you choose if it’s done with class
and grace and not crying too much in your beer.
There may be some crying, in fact, some longing
and sorrow, the usual human predicament
brought on in November when maples slough
their riding hoods and it aches just watching
them melt into the good earth. Turn away
from the past before your feet begin to harden
to salt. No hardening allowed in this letter,
no regret at what might have been
because all the paths taken were yours alone.
Your quiet doe eyes and even doe breath
drew them to you surely as the hunter’s moon
washed the pebbles that saved you
from the gingersnap door, gumdrop chimney,
curl of unmentionable smoke. Or, if you must,
pack the past lightly in your rucksack, no wool
socks, no toothbrush, just the essentials—
Cinnamon’s chestnut flanks, your grandparents’
land a branched lifeline, a mirror you carry
in your hip pocket and sometimes hold
to the sun, setting small fires of memory.
Sign it now, the letter, sign with flair,
and not a little blood, in witness of
your becoming, of the baskets and years
you filled with chicory and gloriosa,
tossing back your thick doe hair.
Copyright (c) 2019 by Linda Parsons. All rights reserved. Linda Parsons’ poetry has appeared in The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, and Shenandoah, among many other journals and anthologies. She is playwright-in-residence for The Hammer Ensemble, the social justice wing of Flying Anvil Theatre in Knoxville. Candescent is her fifth poetry collection.