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Autumn N. Hall , USA

Do I Know You?

Every summer since 1965, my neighbor has been coming from the flatlands of Kansas to summer in her Rocky Mountain cabin. She is ninety now, relegated to thick-lensed glasses, refusing to wear a hearing aide, and resigned to her retreating mind. Her husband, who fell and shattered his hip on the last day of last summer's visit, remains behind in the nursing home this year. Her son, a Vietnam Vet with a Purple Heart on his license plate (and a heart of gold in his chest), makes the 700 mile trek back and forth, maintaining both his aging parents and their aging cabin; this year, he is having the old galvanized pipes replaced and putting in a new hot water heater. After explaining the upcoming plumbing work, he invites me in to, "Say hello to mother."

In his best stage voice, her son introduces me for the fourth time in as many summers. Meeting me again for the first time, she seems pleased. "Mother, she was just telling me about the next door neighbor who wants to cut down the old-growth trees." He asks me to explain further, "Loudly."

"They're mad that we planted a Fat Albert Spruce, even though it won't grow taller than 15 feet. They already want the big ones to come down. I don't understand why people who don't like trees come to the mountains in the first place. They're so weird."

pine branches
breaching blue sky
lumber underfoot

She invites me to follow her, slowly, to the back deck and "...sit a spell." On the way, her son points out the projection TV she nearly pulled down on top of herself the night before, when she'd mistakenly grabbed its cord in the dark for support.

She pats a striped chair next to her and turns to me with a look of well-formed opinion about her. "I agree with you, honey, that girl next door is weird. I never even see her! Goodness knows what she could be doing cooped up in that cabin all day. I've been suspicious ever since she moved here. Who is she anyway?"

caught off guard
out of its burrow
a startled chipmunk

As she points a knobby hand toward my deck, I fight the smile at the corners of my mouth, realizing it's me she's been talking about. Her son is stewing in embarrassed silence. I am torn between manners and honesty, not sure where compassion lies. Erring on the side of light-hearted truth, I pat my own chest and admit, "That's me. I tend to be pretty quiet and spend a lot of time at my computer. I write poetry. And you're right, it doesn't get much weirder than that."_

For a moment, wide-eyed and uncertain, she looks like the doe I'd photographed in their yard just before they'd arrived. But the commonplace of such daily mishaps saves her from apology. "I must have been confused."

Staring at the spot where the doe stood, her son mouths, "You certainly were" under his breath.

white rose petals
scattered on dried grass
no...a dappled fawn


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