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QUINTESSENCE

Archeology

“…summer as an absolute,
Pure State of Light and Heat, the height
to which one cannot raise a doubt.”
- “Absolute September,” Mary Jo Salter, A Kiss in Space, 1999

I met the poet at an Aspen writers workshop years ago, when my own writing was a small hot flame of raw desire. We gathered in a courtyard of grass and cottonwoods and freely sown wildflowers. She read to us from her poems. In the back, behind the rows of chairs, a woman in a straw hat strolled out from under a white tent, white wine in hand. An old man with suspenders sat on a stump, head bent, leaning on his cane as he listened.

Above the poet’s voice, above her words of expansive kitchen views and unexpressed ambitions, my own thoughts hummed with the bees in the honeysuckle. I turned the slim book of poetry over in my hand, studying the noble imprint on the spine. My secret unexpressed ambition? To be published by one of the grand old houses - the editorial lions that guard the gates of literature. To be invited someday to talk to people who love reading, people like me, plain folk who gather to celebrate the written word. I remember gazing at the speaker as though she were my sister, my friend. To be you, I thought. Standing there at the podium in your sundress with your easy confidence, your unkempt hair, your skin blotched by too much sun from somewhere in Kansas. You have it all, there at your fabled kitchen sink gazing into the distance. In this introverted blindness to the world, this whole and innocent self-centeredness, I know you are studying symbols written on inner walls, peering in close through the shadowed light. Paper in hand, you copy down what some part of you has left for another part of you to find. You are my archeologist, my hero.

Poet in a sundress.
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