On the Way to the Jemez

Later I will not be sanctuary.
I will tell her I can’t imagine marrying her
or having kids. I will be cruel & clueless —
but not yet. I was an innocent —
at the top of a rise on the way to the Jemez
I was full of wonder, rapturous over the vivid
yellow of aspen turning along an arc of river,
amazed at such piercing beauty in this high desert.

Later she will return to her ex-husband,
give him another chance despite his anger,
his affair, his decline into violence. I will tell
her “He will never change. Please don’t
do this.”
She will weigh my pleas, my carefully
marshaled arguments. “And,” she will say,
“I have to — for the kids.”

I was once named And. I was once sanctuary. After
we started dating, one late night her ex rampaged,
& she & her kids were in danger. On the phone,
in a desperate, small voice she explained, then
asked “Can we stay for the night?” I answered,
“Of course”
& they were there with me, sanctuary
for once. Safe, the kids slept in my bedroom. In the next
room we were quiet, didn’t sleep
for the longest, sweetest time.

She welcomed me — the Anglo new from Hawaii —
to her family. They showed me something of their
New Mexico. We hiked into the Sandia foothills,
ate at the sprawling New Mexico-style buffet
on the east side, went to the State Fair. At her home
she piled our plates with potatoes & beans, chile
& tortillas. She nourished me, quenched
my vast thirst for a time.

We were on the way to the Jemez. She was
at the wheel, her teenagers in the backseat.
They were always polite & kind, & from
the beginning took me — their mom’s boyfriend—
in stride.

At the top of a rise the land rolled away under
an enormous sky. Her eyes sparkled & her teens
smiled over my enthusiasm & rapture over
the arc of brilliant yellow below us. Later, I will
be unintentionally clueless and cruel, & she
will plan her family’s return to her ex — but not yet.

They are that place on the way to the Jemez —
possibility and beauty, so breathtaking, so fragile.

Andrew Shattuck McBride
PaPoWriMo ~ 2012 *Day Nineteen Poem*
October 18, 2012

About Andrew Shattuck McBride

I am a writer, editor, writing coach, and consultant. I work in a variety of genres, including poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. I also have a couple of novels simmering on back burners. THANK YOU to Nan Macy of Village Books for taking this photo (June 2011).
This entry was posted in Andrew Shattuck McBride Writer, PaPoWriMo ~ 2012, Samples. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On the Way to the Jemez

  1. tsena says:

    oh, this makes me cry for everyone in the poem…oh, you so nailed it. i just want to say ohohoh over and over again.

    • Tsena, thank you so much for your comments.

      She was very wise and kind. Without recrimination, she told me much later how much I had hurt her with my comment about marriage and children. I was so thoughtless and self-absorbed. (I was 24.)

      Her kids were wonderful, and I liked them very much. Her? I loved her, without realizing it until she left me and returned to her ex.

      Final note: it didn’t work out for her; they weren’t able to get back together. I left New Mexico.

      Sincerely, Andy

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