IN WHICH I AM ANNE OF GREEN GABLES AVOIDING DOING THE DISHES
There’s the problem of the sink. At the bottom is a pile of bowls nested one inside the other. Matthew won’t ever wash them. He’s out in the barn being silent as cows chewing. If I do them, Marilla won’t have to, but I get to feeling so done with scrubbing by the end of the day. I want to be inside the tall grasses as if under water, to hear the way the wind rustles them like water falling whitely over rocks. And that gets me to thinking about God’s beard—I’m sure he has one—and how it is so like a waterfall. Marilla doesn’t like me to be so open, so she stops the words that flow from me with a dam of her own words. Or sometimes just a look can do it. She’s not merry, like I am. For instance, if I see a flock of birds feeding by the edge of a lake, I can’t help but run into them, trying to make them fly.
Once, when Marilla was cooking stock, I found her staring down into the pot. Isn’t that a sight for sore eyes? she said, gazing into the roll and rush of boiling water. It’s funny, I think she has a heart like mine, but it’s wrapped in lots of layers, so it’s hard, sometimes, to hear it ticking. Sometimes I can be quiet, and that’s when I hear her coming and don’t want her to know where I am. So I pretend I’m a mute runaway in an alley who has to hide or I’ll be taken to the basement and made to wash something very, very hard to get clean. I just don’t like to stop my pretending all of a sudden. It’s like waking from a dream that you can never get back to. And now I’ve gone and forgotten the dishes completely.
It’s not like I don’t know I’m strange. When I talk to my friend inside the glass of a grandfather clock or in the pane of a window at night, I know it’s my face I’m talking to. I just think there’s more to things than meets the eye. Once, by the lake, I had a staring contest with a black-beaked swan. They’re mean, and you have to show them who’s boss or they’ll charge you. So, I didn’t look away. Finally, it slid into the water and glided around the bend to where the sun was dancing on the surface like stars in daytime. And a fish jumped right out of the spangled water. And I knew, just knew, that that was the swan’s love, caught inside that scaly skin, kept from her graceful companion by some witchy spell. Just because I didn’t see it happen, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Maybe if I wish hard enough, the dishes will disappear, just the way smoke does into the air. I think that’s worth waiting for, just in case.
Rebecca Hart Olander’s poetry has appeared recently in Ilanot Review, Mom Egg Review, Plath Poetry Project, Radar Poetry, SWWIM Every Day, Virga Magazine, and Yemassee Journal, among others. Collaborative work made with Elizabeth Paul is in They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing (Black Lawrence Press) and online at Duende, The Indianapolis Review, and petrichor. Rebecca won the 2013 Women’s National Book Association poetry contest, and her first chapbook is forthcoming from dancing girl press in the fall of 2019. She lives in Western Massachusetts where she teaches writing at Westfield State University and is the editor/director of Perugia Press.