and they don’t look where they’re going, I have to come
out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all
day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye. — J. D. Salinger
Days slip between my fingers — meticulously shaped acrylic tips
without which I’d bite cuticles to blood. Autumnal light throbs
through me addicted tenderness to a shortening life, tempts me to
sprawl out — untanned, blue-vein topless — on the mowed yard.
“I got so much more, so much more love left to give,” Marianne Faithfull
sings with a cracked voice to her early film, The Girl on a Motorcycle.
Oh freckled, fertile/sterile, many-breasted/flat-chested Isis
in the leather suit. My Krav Maga trainer jokes: one day you have
energy to repel a regiment, the next you tumble like a depleted tire.
Have you driven from Houston along Interstate 10? On the way to
Beaumont, there are greenish, shallow bayous that feed the Trinity
River. When it’s dry, they evaporate. When it’s rainy, they flow —
the Old and Lost Rivers.
I recall a white blur — a doctor in the emergency room who checked
my pupils, dilated after two hundred pills hidden in the school
pencil case until I took them all at once. “I won’t report you to a
psychiatrist, because at sixteen you’re more thoroughgoing than I —
just haven’t learned to compromise, haven’t met someone to talk to.”
In that haze, unfocused sunny dust waltzing around a plastic bottle
with physiological saline, I forgot to ask his name, but for many years
he was the one who talked to me, kept my hand when I balanced on
the tarred edges of high-risers’ roofs, looking down at anthills
of children building and crashing castles in the courtyard sandbox.
Here I am, past sixty. Child therapist, Old and Lost like those brackish
rivers in Chambers County. Still trying to find a flow, a red fish
in Trinity Bay. Keeping up hands for others. A catcher in the rye.
Until 2007, Elina Petrova worked as an engineer in Ukraine. She has many Ukrainian and Russian publications, and a book of Russian-language poems. Elina works in a Houston law firm. Her poetry has been published in Illya’s Honey, FreeFall, Texas Poetry Calendar and various anthologies. Harbinger Asylum recently nominated her for the Pushcart Prize. Publication of Elina’s first book of poetry in English is pending.