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Quinnie

For Frances Quinlivan

Still her voice dangling late afternoon lines of
Shakespeare    even the tired oaks lightened
at words fine as gold filigree against her
autumn tweeds, cashmere easy on her shoulders.

 

                   At nineteen we disputed all
truth.           Squint, she said, and held out
counterfeits.            On our mid-west green
we walked with Marx and Aquinas
that Gothic campus chilled
reading tragedies until our faces grew
into Greek masks, dead heroines traced
on frosted windows.

                    And the French writer: a last nickel
for hyacinths, not bread.         Together we tracked
origins: a seed, a page            soon whole folios of
shimmering flesh                     characters waiting to be
named under bark (think of Antigone
once in a tree  or Caliban                   or that Russian
woman on the tracks).
                     We left her passionate to rescue words.

Now older than she was then
(Paganini on broken nights, young odors clinging)
My home shifts through boulders         switch-
backs             avalanche country       the Great
Divide.            In a chaos far from
that early campus        Quinnie’s green word:
know the genuine.

Rita Brady Kiefer ’53