My husband and I are singing in the car,
passing a red pickup from Indiana which
looks like every pickup we have ever passed.
In the old days when our song came up on the tapes,
the kids in the back were embarrassed,
my husband holding my hand
and singing toward the white lines
in the highway, asking me not to
leave him lonely.
It’s a new song today,
our songs like our hands having changed,
softer, not so needy, not so sleek.
By day the lush green corn or dry brown stalks.
At night the bridges and the flat white rivers under the moon,
the lights of cities flung on the dark.
My husband in the front, driving, singing.
And I, in the back, my papers and books
spread around me.
He’s reaching over his shoulder to touch my hand,
my hand reaching up to him,
as if the concave of our palms
could get closer to this closeness,
as if we could give yes to what comes beyond the rise,
beyond this swell of ground the road follows.
--Marjorie Saiser, Bones of a Very Find Hand
Giving yes to a bicycle rodeo on Saturday morning in Seward, Nebraska. Giving yes to potato and socks and nuclear bomb and buzz saw. Giving yes to poetry with Marjorie Saiser and Lucy Adkins. Giving yes to pounding nails with authority and screwing in screws by hand. Giving yes to a poem for a man who was grieving the fresh loss of his father. Giving yes to watercolor painting on the sidewalk and an old bank turned into an art gallery. Giving yes to a photograph with Pat at The Liberty House. Giving yes to a chocolate soft-serve cone. Giving yes to the slow easy drive to Lincoln. Giving yes to Deanna Denny and her warm hug and her kindred spirit. Giving yes to Deanna Denny and her girlish giggle and her pulled chicken and Zentangle cards and miniature Twix bars and eggless banana bread and yogurt parfaits and a promise to take the train to NYC to visit us. Giving yes to Blair and his tie collection and his antique postcards and ceramic creamers and the way he laid on the driveway and put air in Maude’s tires before we left. Giving yes to The Common Root and Lacey and Andi and Bob and Donna and their increasing excitement before we arrived and their fervent cheerleading and the warmest welcome yet. Giving yes to a Little Free Library tour on bicycles. Giving yes to a shady backyard and a happy dog with a red ball. Giving yes to gooey cupcakes and icy lemonade on a driveway and also to the little boy selling clams. Giving yes to a crowd at the library. Giving yes to people who showed up twice to hear us speak. Giving yes to iced coffee. Giving yes to Papillion and its kind people, people like Leslie and Brian and Elizabeth and the mayor and his wife and Harold who fixed our Burley wheel and the woman who ran home to get the typewriter she had gotten for high school graduation and then gave it to us - yes, gave it to us. Giving yes to caterpillars and butterflies. Giving yes to little girls named Lucy and Reese. Giving yes to effervescence and loving laughter. Giving yes to lollipops. Giving yes to a sunset dinner of grilled cheese and the sweetest watermelon and the coldest beer. Giving yes to a glider on the front porch. Giving yes to life. Giving yes to every single possible morsel of life.
Where to begin. How the story keeps growing and I worry I won’t catch it. I have to stop worrying. I’m catching it. Not everything will be remembered now. Not everything has that kind of grip to it. Some things are more liquid, or foggy, vaporous and ethereal, and when they are ready to land, they will land. But here’s what there is from the past two days. First. Saturday morning. Carey and her pajamas and how the goodbye felt too hasty. The quiet streets of Friend. Big mugs of coffee and $2.99 pancakes at the Java Jitters with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Refills for a quarter. The startle and disbelief of breakfast for 3 for under $25. The road to Seward. How we had to drive to get there. The slight dissatisfaction of not riding. Carla, waiting at the Community Hall for a 10 a.m. start time. A last-minute radio interview in the parking lot. Bike haikus. How we leaned into the speaker phone and did our best. The humidity rising already. What used to be a church. The stained glass, the pews. Something about a melodrama. A giant buzz saw behind us. Sliced tree trunks. The Nebraska poets in the audience. The slightest feeling of pressure. Outside, a bike rodeo led by local police. The words “potato,” “socks,” and “bomb.” The building of a new library in 90 degree heat. A boy in a orange shirt, determined to finish the job. The smell of wood. Lemonade with ice. Soft chocolate chip cookies. Another poem.
Lunch at Café on the Square. A tandem bicycle on a brick wall. Chicken salad with sweet pickles. Crinkle fries. The waitress of all waitresses. Free wi-fi before paying the bill. Down the block, an open house for an art gallery. Lois and plein d’air. What she said about Montana. Her clear and present love. The Little Free Library in front of the Liberty House. “You’re the poets!!” she exclaimed and asked for a picture. The celebrity in a small town.
Entering Lincoln. The strange, cosmopolitan busy-ness. The twist of directions. The surprise of trees. Arrival at Deanna’s house. Her immediate and poignant welcome. Blair’s tie collection. The toiletry kit in the guest bathroom. The plushness of the towels. Something yummy in the crockpot. “Whenever you’re ready to eat,” she said, and we were. Barbecued pulled chicken. Cold cold slaw. Pasta salad with halved cherry tomatoes and fresh basil and mozzarella. A meal, I realized suddenly, I had been dreaming about for weeks.
The bumpy ride to Common Root. O Street and evening traffic. Bob and Donna and Lacey and Andi. Phil and his shy hello. A steamy room filled. Getting right down to the story. Words I sank my teeth into. The quiet in the room. Poetry as spectator sport. Poetry as call and response. The drift of cottonwood. Ninja turtles. Organic gardens. What blooms when you pay attention. When you look into someone’s clear eyes.
Chilled Nebraska wine waiting for us at South 83rd St. How to feel at home in less than 24 hours. Laughter for two more hours. Sleep and a gluttony of pillows.
Waking to parfait and the burble of coffee. How you had to be there to believe it. Blair, rising. His broad smile and ripe humor. The good article in the Lincoln Star.
Morning ride through Lincoln. Lacey and her map. The bike bath I envied. Dappled light through the trees. Not yet hot enough to bother. Nicole’s chocolate cupcakes and iced tea and lemonade. The young boy with the Huffy on a side yard who sold lake shells at 50 cents a pop so he could save enough money to buy a car. His earnestness and entrepreneurship. How I wanted to throw fistfuls of dollars into his Tupperware jar. Bob and the cigarette he held behind his back.
Back “home” for lunch before the library. The gift of Rush Limbaugh ties. The gift of a vintage creamer. Blair’s leap to the garage for the air compressor. Refilling the tires. One more photo. How leaving is a practice we’ve entered into and there are days we don’t like practicing it.
Bob and his wave into the parking lot. The immediate offer to help. Kathryn and her introduction. The small posters on the table. Setting up for the slide show. Another way to tell the story. Starting at the beginning. How easily we share the conversation. Like a gentle game of see-saw. Robert and the quiet and supportive way he's been following this journey. His poetic mentions on Twitter. His generous gift. The man who asked if he could draw while we wrote. The words "dollhouse" and "embrace" and the one that stumped us called "three." Signing books afterward. (And how glad I am we brought things to sell!)
The afternoon drive north on 6 to Papillion. Scooters drive-in coffee. The blueberry muffin making me sleepy. Scanning the radio for 80s pop songs. Past Gretna, a lighthouse and the first gentle hills. Riverside RVs. So much green.
Leslie’s house and the ring of chairs. Bryan’s voice, “You can come in!” sent clear across the yard. The two libraries. The butterflies. Leslie’s granddaughter and her blue eyes, wide and quizzical. Then the tilt of her head and giggles. How we all settled in. The arrival of the guests. Desperately wanting a nap. The glider on the porch. The hammock in the yard. Amy and her hand on my back. “I know you’re tired, but they haven’t heard this story.” What it feels like to tell it again and for the first time, all at once. The neighbor and Bryan taking on the Burley tire. The first, unexpected offer of typewriter. Tootsie pops and Rice Krispie treats and tiki lights and bottles of cold water. Leslie’s mother and her sharp eye and her wisdom and the way she held court on the bench while we spoke. That she bought her daughter a t-shirt. That her daughter will wear it to work tomorrow.
And now, this. A crash pad fashioned out of a downstairs den. How we are all working away, catching up, trying to remember it all and knowing something will inevitably slip. Hoping, somehow, that whatever it is will find us again. And tomorrow, the beginning of Iowa.