from SUZANNE

I was a girl in the Valley. I was a woman in the Valley. The second floor of the Valley House has a balcony but it is fake; there is nowhere to stand. It is a trick of the eye. When they turn 35 the girls, the women, move to the Lodge. We all help pack. One girl tried to pack a lamp. It was her favorite.

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When continents were joined together the oceans were joined together too. They were superoceans. Water was and is most of the world. Superoceans are historical oceans, which means oceans that don’t exist anymore. As part of a geological process the floors of these oceans began to disappear, and did. New oceans developed in their centers. Water replaces other water. Water has a floor separate from and deeper than our own.

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Sometimes boys wait outside at night. One gave me a letter and a dead wildflower inside a breathmint tin. Another brought a bag of oranges and passed them out to everyone.

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Suzanne is my responsibility. One night I woke scared from my dream and prayed for a dog. I was small. The night attendant cried. A week later we had a dog. The night attendant loved my name: she’d birthed three children but had wanted a fourth to name Suzanne. She developed a condition in her heart. Suzanne means both lily and rose. We named the dog Suzanne. Now Suzanne could mean both the dog and me.

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When Suzanne is in the field she takes a look back after each step. She makes a face. She does not like being outside like other dogs. I know all of Suzanne’s faces. When I give her a bath she is so still. She holds her head low. She wishes she could hide till the water would forget her. For her wet fur I use a towel and a hair dryer. Her eyes go soft. She thanks me with them. The heat is a cure for her joints. Suzanne has gone gray around her face, like a person.

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The sun creates a wind and it drives the wind, drives the wind on and on. The wind is a kind of power. It keeps the trees in place and it keeps the fields in place, as if a conductor. It does the same for the sky. Keeps it clear. The wind has its source in the sun, but the sun does not have a source. The sun was born and was always a part of this world.

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A church group took some of us to Brenham. It is nice to have our hair cut. We toured the creamery and were given scoops of vanilla with flat wooden spoons stuck in the top. We were told not to argue. I stood on the side of the road and could see the edges of a lake, where the land loses its grass and is only a gritty mud.

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In the stage of decomposition trees do not turn pulpy or crumble. What is left is a stump and pieces of the stump go long and thin, spreading apart, peeling. Staff said the girls would grow dry cabbage skin from smoking cigarettes in the sun. I saw an ant go limp in the heat. Its thin leg reaching out to nothing.

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Suzanne is sick, I can tell. She won’t eat her soft food. She wouldn’t eat an egg when I scrambled one for her. I laid next to her bed with the saucer of egg between us and pet her head, sweet girl, egg for youShe has a growth on her chest. It is as if she has swelled. I’m packing my bag and a bag for Suzanne.

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To calculate time in a most accurate fashion you work backwards from the end. You must know the full expanse of time and then subtract. In my dream there is an event. The older girls arrive at dusk with lights, with lanterns. One has a bottle of kerosene; another is burning, near-dead. In the field, a dead horse, dead goat, dead baby, dead dogs — there is no one left. The girls open every door and one girl lights what is left of the horse.

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