Melissa Goodrich














PIONEER WOMAN
















PIONEER WOMAN

I am turning into my pioneer grandmother.  I think, slowly. 

My hands are still my hands, flecked with silver stars of nail polish. 

My hair is still layered, trendy. 

Pioneer brown. 

When I stand on the scale, Iím still me, frowning at the number.

At first, I am still checking my face in the mirror, and my mirror-face is me but inside of my
body my muscles arenít my own.  My neck stretches to see the woods outside the trainís
windows.  My feet itch for wool, brown boots, I start digging through the toolshed for an ax to
hold, and its weight and rust feels good.  My muscles are jelly but ready.  My dad calls, ďWhat
are you doing out there?Ē and I drop to the ground like a shadow.

The moon makes my blood chill. 

I have aches all over like hives.

When the sun comes up I want to butcher a pig, but all we have is half a pack of bacon, so I watch it bubble to life slowly while my gut twists, dissatisfied.

+

I catch myself saying the strangest words now: mulberry, jonnycake, crick. 

Everything in my house feels too polished and level and smooth, manufacture-straight, and I find
myself running out back to touch the trees and see if I can climb them. 

Their bark is scratching up my hands and my tennis shoes are stupid, slipping.

Before I know it, Iím to the top of an oak, my hand cupping over my eyes like if I squint hard enough
I can eagle. 

When I inhale, I can tell itís almost winter. 

Pioneering, nearing.

My blowing breath makes ghosts.

I feel like making a dugout. 

I head to the woods with a shovel. 

+

The leaves crunch under me as I shovel and dig and shovel and dig and dig. I have no idea what
Iím about.

My palms are sore, but I can feel my body rounding, my muscles un-jiggling. 

I want to knead, to pluck, to roast and salt and store.

I can smell what will be woodstove and squirrelís meat.  I can sense the coarseness of salt and
oxhide and feel myself measuring expertly with my fingers and not letting anything waste. 

+

TRAVELER:

I travel light: an ax or a rifle. 

Something to make fire. 

A dog. 

The woods rise up around me, and I sail through aimless as wind. 

Itís fine as company. 

I donít like those lights pocketing up. 

I donít like the hum of the highway. 

I stand still so long that time inverts, rewinds.

What is rewinds?

It backpedals.

What is pedals?

I rub the sores on my feet, the edges of skin splitting open.

I split open a bird.

I spit into the fire.

The dog comes when I whistle.

The logs heave.

The smoke encircles like snakes, then lifts.

It is like watching a dream revert.

It is like seeing skin shed.

+

Thereís more than me now.

I can feel my children pile up around me like stones.

They call me grandmother, and I am.

Thereís us, thereís movement, we know who we are.

We are covered in dirt, are heading west like we are magnetized.

What is magnetized? my grandchildren ask me.

My back gives out. 

My ankles blister.

We make roads with our feet.

We rename ourselves.

We brown in the sun.

Our necks crease with thirst and our hair turns the color of dust.

Someone covers me with a quilt at night.

We will build a house around you, they tell me.

Someone shuts out the stars.

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SUMMER:

There are rocks in the soil in the woods.

The ax is a plow.

The fire is a plow.

Summer bears on us heavy and blossoming.

The woods, green-soaked, is yielding.

Soon the heads of plants.

Every ear of corn matched up.

It is perfect rows, it is mechanical.

Birds dip into it, those hunters.

Bonnet-fillers.

And at night, the haunting call of coyotes.

And at night, talk and talk and plans and plans. 

Make an imagination of your apron, I say to the daughters. 

Lie back in the grass and think of all the ways we donít die, I say to the sons.

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AUTUMN:

I will be the sun in a universe of stones.

I will the moon in the cloudsoaked sky.

The horses are loose are deer are trees turning red.

My mind is turning to rock.

My bones bend like a bough.

Ring like bells.

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WINTER:

I don't know how to deal with the chill of a cold house.

These pioneer women make me feel like a weaklingóthey have many names for the cold, like
the eskimos had all kinds of names for snow: morning chill, bone cold, skin snap, cheek raw,
heart ice, blood crawl, dusk loam.

I am in cheek crack finger ache hair chill place, and I am thawing out in the stovelight and
dreaming of warm baths.

Outside, the blossom of blood in the snow.

Rabbitís skin mittens.

Soup culled from bone.

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SPRING:

Finally.

A lilac like a punched eye opens.

A lilac like a fresh wound.

Like a window.

The chill doesnít leave me.

I stand in sunbeams all day long.

The mud at my ankles, my sucked in shoes.

The way they stick to the highway.

And I to them.











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