Fresh From the Vine
My father stood on his hands to dive off the diving board, all six foot four inches of him suspended in air, curling his fingers around the hard edge of the gritty grey board, and dove off. He never missed but one of the last times I saw him do this when I was 10 or 11, his ring cut into his finger from the weight of him standing on his hands. Down he dove with a sliced finger and his ring had to be cut off and he needed stitches. The chlorinated blue water pool water probably worked as a preliminary antiseptic to clean the wound because it didn’t get infected but I don’t remember if they gave him back two sewn off halves of the ring, or if they kept them like they keep the cast when my cast got sewn off my arm, broken in two like a loaf of bread. I don’t know if he got another ring either. I do know his hands held protest signs and that he was very proud to have made LBJ stumble in a speech in the late 1960s when he waved a sign around showing a napalmed child. He wasn’t always kind with his hands. It freaked me out when he took his two hands off the steering wheel on highways at seventy miles an hour to light his cigarette, puff on it, inhale deeply, then placed one hand back on the wheel. I always thought we’d end up off the road. His hands painted the seventeen steamer trunks he found to pack with our belongings to move to England. He adhered striped red and white decals, barbershop style, onto each trunk and our suitcases to identify them. I still have one each, with the decals still firmly attached. I helped him carry the trunks and paint every room in the houses we moved into. An industrial engineer, he was very fond of numbers. Right now, if you called him, he could tell you exactly how many tomato plants he has planted- eight, and exactly how many tomatoes he has picked- seventeen -, and how many are on the way; twenty-four. Legally blind with macular degeneration, he uses his fingers as his eyes and the shadows to tell him what to pick; a big red tomato appears as a brown shadow to him, as opposed to the nothingness of the air around it and that’s what he reaches for, the shadow, curling his fingers around the shadow to pick the ripe tomato that he eats right away.
© Laura Rodley, 2013
Laura Rodley contributed “Addicted” to Solace in So Many Words. I don’t think I am the only one to whom Laura’s poetry speaks, and I have been a fan since I first read her work. I am grateful that she let us share this new poem with you. Laura has two chapbooks from Finishing Line Press: Your Front Wheel is Coming Loose and Rappelling Blue Light.
Laura is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize for her poem “Resurrection” which appeared on The New Verse News; (here’s a link to her poem “Beachcomber” on that site). “Resurrection” will appear in The Pushcart Prlze XXXVII: Best of the Small Presses.
Her poetry has appeared in the anthologies Crossing Paths, 911 Peace Project, Anthology of New England Writers, and The Blueline Anthology and in the journals such as Connecticut River Review, Earth’s Daughters, Massachusetts Review, Sanctuary, The National Audubon Magazine, Boston Literary Magazine, Quick Fiction, Sahara, Sanctuary, The Raintown Review, Tiger’s Eye and Way Station Magazine. Her work has been read on WHMP, KVMR, 89.5 FM radio in Nevada City, California, and NPR-affiliated station WAMC in Albany. She is a freelance writer and photographer from Shelburne Falls, MA .