Such As I Am

town with blue shingles
and stark white-washed shutters
and sheep on the hillside
that graze by the river

and the first thoughts of dying
coalesce like they're meant to,
but the world is so
world is so

High, full of color; death's images fade. Hot ends of cigarettes burn through the dark; death's face lurks all over but his grip does not last. Nothing focused; always fades, like the motion-blur children with kite strings dangling, like the whisper-hiss of grass (sometimes brambles) that are the same in every part of the green River Country: full of life, no direction, can't a fellow get some rest. Woman walking, through the graveyard, hands full of flowers for some weathered grave. And she is

And she is

An auburn-haired wonder, slender calves, eyes of grey; "I have seen all the beauties of spring, but that red makes one yearn for fall". John Savant for the raven-haired, George Phillip for the flaxen ones, and James Jones for the red-head girls, whose color is fall and whose names sound like duty—Grace, Constance, Temperance, methodical and steady. Her lips are moving at him but they make no sound; he senses a warm hand and a sweet smile only. He tries to say something, but fails to come up with poetry. It's been too long anyways.

She leads him back toward her boardinghouse, and he picks up another useless name for his collection. Trisha is solid, the salt of the River Country, and her rock keeps him from sweeping onward for another two days.

He comes back again, the next time he's in River Country, and this time he stays on, as "Phillip Dumas", a traveling scholar. The widow Elric has lived alone for too many years, he can tell, the signs are all there—slightly too much time spent dusting, as if it is the only thing she can think of to do once her other chores are done. Tiny thimbles, porcelain dolls all lined up on countless china cabinets, to ensure they generate the max amount of work. He obliges her with clods of mud on the carpet and laundry to press, and enough meal requests to keep her from getting suspicious.

Her long hair is still precious, but she pulls it back into a braid; she's all business when it's just her and her clients in the house. He tries poems, at first, but she really has no interest in soap opera compliments—she thanks him for the thought, then returns to her dusting. Next-door-neighbor (Pinoko? Pinako?) observes once and almost chokes to death on her cigarette—"That's a nice thought, boy, but your timing's all wrong. Try back in a century."

He doesn't quite understand that, but he makes note of it anyways. Time is the one thing he has in abundance.

The next time he comes it's as "Roger Cantrell", but it's nowhere near a century and somehow she sees through it, anyways. He gets concerned though, because she begs him to stay—and that worries him. He has lots of women like her, who would like to be his anchor, and too many of them confuse that for throwing themselves head first into the ocean. His first wife took the plunge and then never forgot it, until he himself felt like he'd be dragged under. He's leaving, it's over, he wants no damn part of this.

As he's on his way out, he's surprised at the speed she flings his laundry at his head.

But by now she is in him, a part of him, and thoughts wander—back to the River Country, where his feet also take him. The Rockbells (the neighbors) have even caught onto the next form, years later, they are still calling him "Cantrell". So does Trisha, and he doesn't bother to correct her, just takes her thick hand and lets her lead him home. The hard callouses in her hands give him focus, and he ceases to worry about it. Maybe in her own long life, the widow Elric has seen enough hardship to know not to act unless she means it. Perhaps he can trust her not to lose herself in his problems.

Too many would give where they haven't been asked to, but this time he thinks he might just reciprocate.

They have no need for a real ceremony; they've both long since tired of formalities, and the widow Elric gives him her name freely on the hill by their oak tree. He has no other name. He has no need for another name. But he tells her his real one as he brushes her cheek (starting to wrinkle now, just as his is already rotting)—

"Take me, such as I am, to be with you."

They will give themselves to each other, and that will be enough.