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Barbara Bloom

At The Socialist Hotel
              Lake Como, Italy

After the confusion over the room key
—was it “la chaivre”?—
we laughed and made our escape
from the talkative proprietor,
who’d wanted to refill our glasses
with red wine and hear more about California,
not seeming to mind our broken Italian.

There were students in the hotel, he warned,
with an apologetic wave of his hands,
slipping into French for a dramatic quelle disastre!
They were there to cram for finals, but really
they were drinking, slamming doors,
running up and down the halls,
and near dawn, I heard a girl crying.

The next day, I’d take my daughter to the train station,
where she’d begin her journey to Russia, I think,
though it might have been Israel.
What I do remember is all night,
while the party went on outside our room,
voices raised in a language I barely understood,
I felt that fabric of our closeness stretch and slip,
and all I wanted was to hold on to it
barricade the door against those coming hours.

A Visit to Dove Cottage
              “I should detest the idea of setting myself up as an author. Give               Wm. the Pleasure of it.” —Dorothy Wordsworth

I remember her boots, small and worn,
in a glass case, a label explaining these were the boots
she’d worn on those long walks through the Lake District
with William. They thought nothing of walking twelve miles
to post a letter. And there was a letter, in Dorothy’s hand,
displayed with the boots, to her aunt who’d said
all that walking about with William was unladylike
and dangerous to her health, and she’d replied no,
it was good for her, and she wouldn’t give it up.

Outside, it’s pouring. My daughter and I
have left the damp, crowded hostel,
postponing our own walking until the rain lets up.

Best not to go upstairs—though of course we do—
see the large, cheerful room that was William’s,
and the dark back room that was his sister’s.
The plaque on the wall says her last twenty-five years
were spent as an invalid, bedridden, after William’s marriage.
Downstairs, a fire is burning in the sitting room,
but the garden is sodden.

I remember sitting in our hotel room in the Tenderloin,
just hours after the judge has said till death do you part.
I pull all my art supplies out of my suitcase,
hand them to my sister.
I tell her I won’t be needing them anymore.

I go back to look again at Dorothy’s boots.
I want to think of her as walking freely outdoors,
noting down each detail in her journal,
not wanting any of it to be lost. Not giving
everything away.

October, Rider Rd.

The apple trees are rigid with age and neglect—
the trunks lichen-covered, some so hollowed by rot,
it’s a wonder they can still stand—
but they do, and in the higher branches,
Golden Delicious and Granny Smith
are clustered, just out of reach of the hungry deer.

They are sleeping up the hill—the brown of their coats
blurring into the brown of the dry grass,
but as they stand up, I see it’s the two does,
the young buck with just the beginnings of antlers,
and the twins, born unseasonably late, the smaller one
still wearing the protective spots of babyhood.

I stand under one of the trees and shake hard:
apples fall around me. The deer edge closer,
then as I walk away, they are simply there,
where I was, in that imperceptible way they move,
their eyes looking at me, unreadable,
necks bent to the ground.

I long to stroke their faces,
wrap my arms around their slight bodies,
and hold them, but of course I do not.
What’s wild should remain that way, I tell myself.
I will not change that. But as I look back at them,
and they look at me, I’d like to think
something is exchanged there, a recognition
more than simply apples in a dry season.


Barbara Bloom

Barbara Bloom, now semi-retired from teaching English and creative writing at Cabrillo College, grew up on a remote coastal homestead in British Columbia, Canada, and eventually came to Santa Cruz to attend UCSC and never left.  She currently lives in the countryside outside Corralitos with her musician husband. Her first full-length collection of poems, On the Water Meridian, was published by Hummingbird Press in 2007.

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