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Three things you can’t control: life, death, and children. Lord
knows, you’ve tried. Good God knows, there’s holy risk just
beyond the farm lane’s bend. And the paper and the radio shout
of doom-oh-doom-oh. Yet you can force certain things to taste
as you expected; you can bake brave resolution into rhubarb, its
stiff pink bowties cut off dangerous and fresh. Force the fever out;
it just takes three cups of sugar and an unwatched boiling. Change
what might have puckered into filling, feathery-sweet. You contain
the lot with lattice: no escape, no wandering. When the children were
children, you fretted. And when stewing stopped, disasters! nearly
happened. Yes, remember the child falling down the hay hole in the
barn loft (you gathering baby teeth on cement below)? Or the child
running for your arms, into the gallop of a Morgan’s muscled path
(hooves ginger in mid-flight so that not one scratch ever surfaced)?
You still tremble at these awful almost-endings, have polished them
for over fifty years. Even alchemy that turns a garden vegetable to fruit
can’t erase your puckered face squinting down into reflection—even
with the cup of sugar that claims it’s heaping-full. A slice of rhubarb
pie: now that can carry the peace of your best measurements. It can
lift a veil of worry like breeze finds a curtain in a half-open window.


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

  • Susan Hibl

    Yes, it is true, I still tremble at those “awful almost-endings” and I am thankful for the slice of rhubarb pie that comes too.

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