reading from a book in progress, tonight at Penn

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tonight I'll be joining the Penn Alumnae Association—talking about my students, reading from Handling the Truth, and debuting these few paragraphs from this pesky work in progress. Much of this new book takes place on the campus I've grown to love. It seems only fitting to share these words with other alum who pass that way again:

The snow is new. Our boots sink deep. Maggie drops the trash-can lid onto the snowy walk and ties it to the leash of her rope. “You first,” she says, and the snow and the lid crunch beneath me and Maggie snaps the rope like a lasso artist and I’m thrown back and now forward and Maggie says to keep my knees pressed to my chin.
I am floating. I am flying between the big Victorian twins and the old trees and past the community garden where Maggie plants her growing things in the spring. It's a long hill down to the raw west edge of the Penn campus, and someone is calling my name. 
Between towers, past the Commons, over the bridge and down Locust Walk—me on the silver disk of Maggie’s trash-can sled and Maggie up ahead, the snow beneath us, our trail behind us, the snow falling still. At the compass Maggie turns toward Spruce and the Quadrangle dorms, which are massive and brick and undivided stone, like a fortress carrying on, a blockade, and where the only way in is to belong.
She crosses the street, turns east on the walk. Spruce Street tilts down, and the dorms rise up, and there are lights in the leaded glass, turnstiles in the arches, guards. From within the vast interior courtyards, we hear the sound of snowball fights, laughter, instructions on the making of snowmen—Get up, Stand up, Get going—and we are a parade two, we are a parade for no one; the snow keeps coming on.
Maggie’s red hair has turned white. Her mohair shoulders and arms and the bottom of her dress are white. Her boots are white and Maggie’s disappearing into the night and we go—down Spruce to the end of the Quad, south along the east facade, west beside the south façade, and the fortress is holding, the world is safely held. I close my eyes. Tip back. Let the snow tumble in. When I open my eyes I see crystal stars between my lashes, the melting of the night. The lights in the windows of the rooms are going out. One by one by one, and I slide by.
Everything is vanishing, I say, and now is a long time ago.


Melissa Sarno said...

Oh, I love this. So beautiful.

Sarah Laurence said...

I love this line especially: "When I open my eyes I see crystal stars between my lashes, the melting of stars."

I've been writing all day, working on my WIP. It's nice to take a reading break with another WIP.

KFP said...

How you can make a simple pull through the snow so vivid and gorgeous--and suffuse us with beauty as we read--I will never know. I can only admire.

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