by Suzanne Sigafoos
Green as Ohio’s Tea Hills, named for sassafras, a root boiled and steeped; green as panes of window glass on end, green as deep basins of river water that slow but do not stop, green as shamrocks and great good fortune, green as fiddleheads, fields and falls, green, like the fuse that burns beneath the dun watercolor stain of winter.
My grandfather was a newlywed when he bought farmland in Ohio, circa 1917. The new couple moved into the big brick house that came with the acres. Two children were born in that house. My grandfather worked the land with a horse and plow, then planted, and waited for rain. His farm did not thrive. Too often, it rained just beyond the fence where Grandpa’s land stopped and the next farm started. Clouds opened and rained down on the neighbor’s farm, the fields just over there, so verdant, so green.
I married late. At thirty-seven, I was anxious to conceive. The first year: no pregnancy. Year two: same. We called up a fertility doctor with a reputation for success, and met with him. He prescribed hyper-ovulation drugs, and I entered a new world: Hyper-libidinous, hyper-emotional, hyper-sensitive, I taped newsprint on the wall-sized bathroom mirror, so when I stepped out of the shower I saw only my shoulders, neck, and head, a portrait. Hidden from view: my non-pregnant belly, my non-pregnant breasts.
I did my grocery shopping, late at night, at a 24/7 supermarket not known for its fresh anything. After 10:30 p.m., this store was exquisitely devoid of strollers and grocery carts where dewy toddlers sat, plump as cabbages. In my altered state, it was easy to imagine: grab the kid, place it in my cart, head out the door, drive away. At the all-night Cala Foods, there were no beautiful babies to send me spiraling. I shopped with trannies, junkies and the homeless. Steadied by wire carts, we traipsed through the aisles, the Muzak, the buzzing fluorescent light.
Dreams at night: Green silk unfurls from a bolt, yard by vivid yard, in slow motion. The dream voice asks: How much silk do you want? My answer: I’m not sure how much I need. That voice again: Tell us when you know. We never run out of green.
“Just relax. To conceive, you have to relax.”
“Start adoption proceedings; that guarantees you’ll get pregnant.”
“Be glad you don’t live in ancient times when barren women were chased out through the city gates and left to die in the desert.”
I am not green when I see red, not green when I am blue.
I thumb through my copy of Babar, The King. Years ago, I gift-wrapped this colorful storybook to give to a pregnant friend at her party. I dressed, picked up my car keys then stood there, perfectly still. I put down my car keys, changed into p.j.s, made a pot of tea, unwrapped the book, and read.
In spring and fall, on the equinox, shadows are green. Some greens prefer shade: viridian, malachite, moss and myrtle.
No one is safe from sorrow.
Is grass, at a prescribed distance from the eye, greener than the grass right here where I am standing?
I practice the green of gratitude, the green of kindness to myself, then others. I want the patience of green, the I-gave-you-my-word-and-kept-it-green. On days when sorrow wins, I bow my head: Constant green of spruce, fir, cedar, sustain me. Willow, leaf, vine, lend me grace.
SUZANNE SIGAFOOS is author of Held in the Weave, a chapbook of poems published by Finishing Line Press in 2011. Most recently, her poems have appeared in The Oregonian, in Windfall, a Journal of Poetry of Place, and the anthology The Knotted Bond: Oregon Poets Speak of Their Sisters. Sigafoos is co-founder of River Rock, a poetry critique group in Portland, Oregon, her home since 1999. “Green” is this writer’s first work of creative non-fiction to appear in a literary journal.