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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 7, Number 1, March 2013

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Aron Rothstein
Toledo, Oregon, USA


Zaida

Tuesday she cured the cancer
in a garage with the engine running
Friday at the post office
I open her note
"I've loved you like my own
and my life has been richer for it.
Thank you"

A cousin of my father's generation, a friend, a second mother. The late August calls of Steller's jays recall the cries of blue jay flocks, the heralds of summer's end in my youth, a half century and a full continent away. Then the cries were bittersweet; the end of lazy days, but the anticipation of rejoining school friends. Now autumn promises more loss than gain. My world contracts.

late summer's dawn fog . . .
unmoored in a bubble
touching no other

We head south, 570 miles, to join family. She was unique, a great soul. I've dreaded this trip; until I'm there, things are as they were. When I arrive, she'll be gone. I'm stuck; the grief in my head not yet in my heart.

ebb tide
the emptiness within
this shell

Into the mountains. The sun shines on peaks and forest. A realist, I accept that without us the world goes on as before; but nevermore to see this beauty, to be part of the scene?

mountain mist
a gyre of vultures
fades to white

South through the Calapooya Range, the Interstate traverses small valleys of the Umpqua. Each perfect, ringed by mountains and ridges, yet a trifle in the grand scheme of Earth's wonders. Passing through, I imagine residents of each feel they live in as beautiful a place as there is—and who could deny it? Our lives are bounded but deep.

gravel lane
a buttercup's world
in the center strip

Dropping out of the Siskyous, the first glimpse of the white mountain. As always, the eternal beauty pulls my spirit upward. But today it's anchored, held by the transience of our existence.

I-5 South
Shasta gleams before me
after me

Her husband and children, my cousins; gathered far-flung lives. Three days at the table, talking and eating and laughing and cards. This is how we lived with her; without her. Glowing in these faces, her love still moving and binding us. Did I expect wailing and gnashing of teeth? Perhaps we arrived too late; or too soon. What did I expect; what do I want?

ripples on the pond
guiding my way
a doe's tracks

We take a drive with her daughters, past the cabin of their youth. "Dad bought this place", "We used to walk here, swim here . . ." They don't mention their mother, but I can see a younger Zaida, with her family and friends. A surprising, secondhand nostalgia for this Zaida I never knew takes hold.

the S-shaped trunk
of the great old fir . . .
what long-ago snows?

Time calls me back; we head home. I've picked up a bug—my head is stuffed and I can't hear in one ear. I shudder at the thought of the drive ahead. On the road, I find some focus. Words flow through my mind, and I strive to organize and remember.

whisper of tires
over the asphalt miles
the comfort of a goal

This year's fires have been bad. The smoke dazes; even the mountains are lost in the blur. Their spirits felt in indistinct glimpses of ungrounded peaks.

I-5 North
floating in wildfire haze
Shasta's summer snows

Returning home. The cats greet and complain, not understanding the five-day break, anxious to restart their routine. Exhausted by the drive, I'm perfunctory in my ministrations.

my own bed
after the red-eye
ragged salmon fill the creek

Next day the cats are happy, allowed outside again. All is the same; the meadow, the woods, the creek. The rising sun burns off the early fog; a gentle breeze enfolds the firs. Morning rhythms resume and my life resettles around me.

spring reawakens
each tree each fern each hollow
I know this place

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