(excerpt) “My Girl’s Life in My Pink Room,” by Janet Grace Riehl


(From “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary”)

We’d fixed up the White Cottage really nice.
When I came down with the mumps,
Daddy stayed home,
read to me and put in an indoor bathroom.

Our family moved a few paces down
to the Big Brown House
from the White Cottage
when the Great-Aunties died.

When we first moved in,
he and I sat in the cistern basement.
Daddy, isn’t it disgusting
that we have to start all over again?
Slowly each of the fourteen rooms,
five porches, and eight rooms in the basement
bent to fit our family of five…

Modern floors supported mother’s refinished antiques.
I was crazy about pink then, as little girls are.
Pop didn’t care much for pink.
Okay, he hated pink.
But, he did care for me, and so pink it was.
Even the wallpaper bloomed little pink flowers.

I slept underneath a double wedding-ring quilt,
part of my trousseau.
The carved walnut headboard loomed above my head.
Marble-topped dressers and, in the middle,
a round table of the sort
heroines in the old-fashioned books
I read might have taken tea.
Against one wall, a white china pitcher
and washbasin on a dresser
with a false top and secret drawer.

The weekly ritual of changing the table-top tableaus.
I took ribbons from funeral biers from the potting shed
and twisted these into little nests
filled with wee baskets and figurines
I scoured the house for.

Treasure abounded.
Scraps of lace.
A wasps nests.
Birds eggs.
Butterfly wings.
Tiny vases filled with lilies of the valley.

Altars I tended as devoted handmaiden.
Arranging tiny worlds I controlled.
Door closed as I worked,
brow furrowed in fierce concentration.
Hummed hymns of my girl’s life in a pink room.

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One Comment

  1. I like the pairing of the visualization with the excerpt from your poem that also takes us back to a childhood room…and the inside room, too, as we can feel what was inside your heart: “tiny worlds I controlled” speaks volumes!

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