Bio Note: I'm a former teacher, a former Peace Corps Volunteer, and a full-time poetry missionary. Surely, there's not a person alive who wouldn't benefit from some form of poetry! My husband, whom I've converted, and I live in our woodland home near Athens, GA, travel when we can, and share his photography and my poetry widely and often.
She never knew I was there, my twelve-year-old self, peering through the kitchen window out to the porch-turned-sunroom, watching my mother. There in housedress and apron she sat on the footstool near the old hi-fi, transfixed by “Clair de Lune”— each piano note rising from the spinning vinyl like an iridescent bubble into the long-leaf pines. The comfortable voices: Perry Como, Peggy Lee, Tennessee Ernie Ford—our house breathed these with ease, but here was daring Debussy, stilling my mother in the middle of her housework, rare as a resting bee in the spring orchard. The memory is evergreen to this day each time I hear the piece— for at that moment, my mother became someone I’d never met, transplanted city girl dreaming something I couldn’t imagine, staring at the tall pines, their needles flashing brilliance as they scratched the Alabama sky.
Originally published in The Kentucky Review, Spring, 2016
I own a face familiar; others know me when they don’t. Entering the crowded plane or busy shop, I see the glance unguarded that stops and squints, the double take quick-shifting into the studied stare at nothing there, just far away from me. Eyes of muddled green, skin equivocating beige that changes with the hour and the light (imagine cliffs of clay), nose with ethnic implication. “You look familiar…” they say, moist hand in mine to handshake memory, or, “I think we may have met before…” or, “Don’t I know you, dear?” I have that kind of face. So that day in the Burmese market, the stares at first meant nothing. Left to take my hundred shots, to freeze hot time into framed submission, turning to include all views—the silks, the gourds, the heads piled high with big-leafed greens, the tight displays of fruit, the cart across the square, ox-drawn mountain of melons, children dancing by its side, and the women’s clay-brushed faces, their dignity and grace, the skirted men, surprising in appeal, and the riveting red of the monks’ rough garments, the golden Buddha carvings—I snapped all these in tourist hunger, letting brown-eyed stares ricochet from my camera lens and dusty skin. Until I saw that day what they were seeing. Yellow-haired and towering presence, dressed in lycra slacks, large tote swinging, camera clicking, glossy lipstick (coveted and rare) beaming bright beneath the viewer, I was for them in the world that spawned them, the only subject exotic, the one face unfamiliar.
Originally published in Dancing On the Rim, Brick Road Poetry Press, 2009
©2021 Clela Reed
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