Notes from Philly

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Milking

with 2 comments

Sometimes at midnight she’d bake a cake.
A dropped spoon, the oven door,
her boyfriend’s: Linda will this ever be done?
Lissa’s: Should we get up?

Black-eyed Linda with milky skin
Black-eyed Linda, she loved Frank Zappa.

Curiosity got the better of us.
What treasures this time dragged
Four flights up: A pie safe? Oak chairs?
Linda spent weekends on her family’s dairy farm.
She spoke of it softly and with a halt.
She spoke like she walked, with hesitation.
The quietness drove Lissa crazy:

“She does it on purpose.
She makes you lean in close.”

Her people were Quakers. Didn’t put much stock in talk.
She wanted the world to slow down.
Both roommates played the flute.
They were friends first at the music school.
They snagged the top-floor in a brownstone.
It was too big for two —so were their characters.
A pianist might work.

Black-eyed Linda, lover of secrets
Black-eyed Linda, lover of hush.

The first time Linda took me to the farm, I was drawn
to the ham, tomatoes, corn at table.
Inside and out, the place was brown and flat.
The animals did not impress.
The only cow I knew was the one my mother drove through
to get eggnog. Everyone in Miami calls it The Cow.
The creature stands on top.

Black-eyed Linda with milky skin
Black-eyed Linda, she loved Frank Zappa.

After music school, she put away the flute.
Mastered botany. Went to The Sun
to write about the garden. Made fine stories. Made
fine homes. One for the ex-husband and ex-boyfriend
to live together. When Linda got sick they lived with her.

Black-eyed Linda in ill-fitting Wranglers,
Black eyed Linda with milky skin.

Before the brain tumor took her beauty,
Before the brain tumor took her life,
She wrote a children’s book about the farm.
Her cousin did the pictures.
A Morning Milking made The New York Times.

Linda had two weddings.
The first was a surprise.
She found a Mexican wedding dress,
a grassy spot by the art gallery,
two horses and my family to witness;
went home for the big ceremony.

Black-eyed Linda with milky skin
Black-eyed Linda, she loved Frank Zappa.

Odd hours, she would call.
Discoveries and stories and silence
that drove me into chatter _
patience.

Black-eyed Linda with milky skin
Black-eyed Linda, she loved Frank Zappa.

She was gone.
I found the cousin.
I didn’t know the man.
I knew his Maryland skies and haystacks.

“I remember –
“I miss her too, the artist said.
“You are so different,
“Linda didn’t talk.

“Let’s get this straight, he said.
“We weren’t cousins.”

Black- eyed Linda
Hush.

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Written by Lesley Valdes

January 4, 2010 at 3:18 am

2 Responses

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  1. Lovely! A wonderful tribute to another person. I like the way you’ve expanded it, though I don’t exactly remember what’s new and what’s old. A sweet picture: “Sometimes at midnight she’d bake a cake.
    A dropped spoon, the oven door,”…

    Brian Billings

    January 5, 2010 at 4:24 am

  2. The references to her cousin the artist are new and startled me. One more mystery to this complex soul of many talents. A poem is never finished only abandoned, they say. Thanks for bothering to comment, Brian.

    Lesley Valdes

    January 5, 2010 at 1:53 pm


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