Clear cut


Mable Carmine had hair the color of fresh blood and it was natural too. Skin white like the flesh of new potatoes. Creamy. She taught me how to shave my legs. My clueless, knobby freckled itching legs. Mable Carmine grew up to study botany after first pledging her troth to a number of different religions, but nothing is more spiritual in the end than the sexy damp earth of gardening, the hummus, the mulch, the first tender moments unfolding. Mable. I’ve had a soft spot for that name since seventh grade.

We went on a field trip once, on a fishing boat, a trawler I suppose it was, and we were both seasick, me as white as she was for once, and we holed up together in the hold and heaved intimately, unhappily, throughout the entire trip. We never really spoke again after that.

The secrecy of gardening has been with me since childhood, since it was all an unfamiliar mystery. It is still a mystery, but a familiar one, like how the taste of milk slightly warmed is always a surprise, the sweetness, the kiss of nutmeg touching the lips spicy, new, every time. There are daffodils, of course, and hyacinth, and tulips and irises. Bearded, I hope, this year – we thinned out the old bed not long ago. We thinned out the old bed and shook the sheets free of dust and memories, freshened the rooms and hung everything out in the thin cold sun. We are early for renewal this year, earlier than usual, and this is a kind of climate change, too, a need for light before light has really arrived.

Mable Carmine went on, past the religious convictions, through the formality of European botany, to the fresh scraped story of botany in the rain forest, in the thick wet lands of Machu Pichu, in the heavy mosquito air, and there she disappeared into undergrowth so tangled that she was not found until much later, until the herbalists, the brujas and the curanderas had given way to a clear cut shaving, leaving stubble behind, no vines, no freckled skin, no mysteries, no rich, oozing earth.

 

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