Forty

by Mari Nichols

When it was young, The Story wanted to tell her
with elegant wrinkles in the final chapter.
Gentle lines that framed her eyes with wisdom and sadness–
not cracks that split her face and whispered of capture,
nor crevices to remind a gentle reader
of furrows like dried Arizona mud,
dug by the wild madness of the sun.

By the time The Story became the story,
it asked the narrator to leave editing
to the children or to another day. She agreed.
She could let the climax stay, though discrediting
her truth: lives not plotted intersect long before merging.
She feared only that the gentlest would read
of destiny between the lines.

Soon enough, a studio was completed
in one bare room marked by a red glass door,
somewhere between the attic and the root cellar.
There, the story danced on the parquet floor
while waiting for her to begin transcribing.
Instead she paused to ask, “But who will write the end?”
as though she hadn’t wondered it before.

And as though it hadn’t also considered this,
the story shrugged and gently, gently offered
“Destiny?”
before mutely deciding she needn’t write at all.
With an elegant pirouette, the final elegy renounced,
it danced her through a vast hall.
Spinning, she found it easy to ignore memory
as it fell from the stairs and dared her to catch up.

Now danced, she doesn’t care to understand
why life tried so hard to convince her.
Instead she paints rivers and moist Arizona mud
on glass with colors that wouldn’t dare to occur.
She ignores the narrative when it chants
and she can’t find the straight lives that once intersected
so she doesn’t try to paint the people or their truths.

Through gently wizened creases, she sees the irony
of pigment drying on stiff brushes
as she tells The Story, climaxes too.
Words pause; hopeful she’ll give them consideration.
In time, the end will offer its own narrative
but she will be too busy painting life between the lines
to hear the storyteller.

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