Charlotte Pence

All morning the parents steal memories from their

children. A father passes an old elm where

a sugar maple now stands, remembers a girl who read Eliot

under the tree, her long, bare legs stretched out

as if her life had never required hurry.

The tour guide shows an empty classroom and a mother

hears her old professor: Question, question everything,

especially when you have no questions.

Their children trail but dare not smile

having decided all of this is adult.

As I walk by the group, I hear it, one girl speaking

to her mother—it is my voice, was my voice,

and I see the mother’s watery eyes, their whites yellowed

like old photographs. The daughter says,

“We should eat now. Before you get too tired.”

The girl is hit with autumn sun—so bright

that it breaks on her scalp, white, falls down

over her feet, falls as if

the sun is something tangible

to scoop off the ground for later use.

The mother nods as the guide explains that the city campus

once was a farm with deer and bear. The mother looks up

the grassy hill as if to see one of them

passing by on its way to the creek.

The daughter asks, “Mother, are you listening to me?”

The tone is what had been my own, and probably my mother’s

before that. The memories, the moments slip from one to the next

with a slow flutter, like a girl’s yellow hair-ribbon sliding

off her braid as she races down the hill toward the creek,

toward the doe she wants to come to the edge.

Charlotte Pence has received the New Millennium Writing Award for Poetry, a poetry fellowship from the Tennessee Art Commission, and, most recently, the Libba Moore Gray poetry award. Her work has previously appeared in Southern Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Seattle Review and other journals. She is currently a doctoral candidate concentrating in creative writing at the University of Tennessee and editor of Grist: The Journal for Writers.

  fiction    poetry    "fact"    photography
masthead      guidelines