Her Countenance Alone


It doesn’t matter who she is

Her name

Nor father that created this beautiful piece of art

What she’s saying

In all those seconds

Over all that time

Utterly inconsequential

What I study instead

Is her countenance alone

That face

Living, expressing, growing, changing

Yet persisting

And prevailing

As the baby girl

Expressing without words

No words to express

How she is every girl

Every baby grown up

Every stage

Each different

All the same

She is my daughter

My first daughter

My second

She is every girl

I’ve taught over the years

At some point talking

To me

Without me hearing


Her countenance alone

Captured me

Raptured me

Entitling me to see, just see

To appreciate

To love

Every stage

Of every girl

Each different

All the same.

The Embroidery

Each fall as I see hillsides of deep color and texture, I am reminded of an embroidery panel of my mother’s that I saw as a child.

I have no memories of my mother sitting and embroidering. I suppose, now, that she did such things after we kids were tucked in or perhaps while I was away at school, especially for the two or three years when we lived in town, prior to the farm, after which I’m sure she never sat down to embroider again.

Despite that, every fall, I am taken back to our house in town, upstairs, to a small nook off the main part of my parents’ bedroom, to my mom’s sewing area where I discovered the embroidery.

The panel was large, perhaps two and a half feet across and a foot high, the left third or so embroidered, the rest just muslin with faint veins of blue guidelines.

I ran my hand over the finished part, astounded at how an entire hillside of evergreens, leafy trees, bushes, and reeds grew from the different stitches and small knots made with various hues of thread. Where and when had she learned to make a piece of fabric come to life? Looking at it was probably my first experience with art appreciation.

I don’t recall asking my mom about the embroidery, but perhaps I did, or maybe she noticed me admiring it, for I have a vivid memory of the day, not long after that, when she introduced me to the craft.

I was home sick from school, in my parents’ king size bed, heavy with bed covers, their warmth, their scents. Their room was just down the hall from the kitchen where I could hear my mom and call to her when need be. She tended to me with soup, 7-Up, and things to keep me occupied between naps.embroidery thread

At one point of waking, she was there with a small piece of muslin and several shiny, silky threads. I have no memory of her teaching me, but she must have, for I can see myself, a pajamaed girl in that vast sea of bedding, hunched over my work until it sapped from me every bit of the little energy I had that day.

When I could concentrate no more, I lifted the work from my lap to take a final look at what I had accomplished, and when I did, up came the sheet along with the embroidery. Every stitch I had made had gone through not only the muslin, but the sheet beneath it, the sheet in my lap that warmed my skinny, seven-year-old legs.

“Mom!” I screamed, feverish, fatigued, and devastated that my embroidery would forever be a part of her bed.

She was there right away, not angry, tender as always, telling me not to worry, that she could fix it. When I awoke, the embroidery was detached from the bed and there were more stitches in the muslin than I had put there and they were even and lovely and not those of a beginner’s hand.

I have no other recollection of my mother’s embroidery panel, no knowledge of whether it was ever completed. She may have put a lot of time into it initially, and then, as her days and priorities changed, put it aside, then, finally, away.

Yet still, the embroidery that I see every fall upon textured hillsides is that season in my life, that day, in particular, when my mother’s presence, her attention, her patience, were the stitches that constituted her love.

The Bottle of Whiskey

Seven miles north of town at 75 miles per hour. In the warmer months, I ride in the back of the 1970 green Ford truck. But, now, I’m squeezed between my older sister and my father, my boots tucked under his gas pedal leg. Next to my sister is my mom and on her lap my little brother. We always sit in the same spots; it’s the only way we fit.

I know the way, even in the dark, even though I’m only eight and can barely see over the dashboard. Turn right on Jennings Road, pass the Jennings farm. I remember stopping there once for a few hours. The reeking silage was so pervasive, so inescapable, I thought I might vomit. Go left at the end of this road and pass the farm with the collie, the one who always tries to bite our tires. Don’t slow down, no need to, he does it every time and we haven’t run over him yet. Turn right and come upon the Reno place. There’s a girl there who is my age named Charla. I think we could be best friends because our ranches are close together.

But, we don’t live on our ranch like Charla does and I don’t see her that often. We live in town. We drive out to here most evenings to check on the place, feed the horses, and on weekends we go for a family ride, shoot guns, hike around, mend fence, or continue the work on the barn and corral we’re building.

Sometimes we kids come out here with just our dad. We play around while he drinks whiskey.


I Remember

I remember having amnesia.

I was eleven years old and in the hospital and unable to be released because I couldn’t remember anything. But I remember.

I remember my mom taking me and my horse, Corky, to a gymkhana on a weekday morning in the summer. More