Julia Nunnally Duncan has been a friend for many years. Her work came to my attention when I was on the reading committee for the Appalachian Consortium Press and found her story collection Blue Ridge Shadows in my hands. I liked it so much that I contacted her after the selection process. We've been in touch ever since. Julia was born and raised in WNC. Her credits include five books: two short story collections (The Stone Carver; Blue Ridge Shadows); two novels: (When Day Is Done; Drops of the Night) and a poetry collection (An Endless Tapestry).
She has completed a second poetry collection At Dusk and continues to write and publish poems, stories, and personal essays. Her works often explore the lives of the unemployed, the socially outcast, the lonely. She lives in Marion, NC, with her husband Steve, a woodcarver, and their eleven-year-old daughter Annie. She studied creative writing at Warren Wilson College's MFA Program for Writers and teaches English at McDowell Technical Community College in Marion, NC.
English Leather Lime
The rectangular box was stored
in my parents’ dresser drawer,
kept perhaps to hold loose change
or sales receipts,
too small to be very useful
but well enough made
of light soft wood
to make my mother think
it too important to throw away.
I pulled it from the drawer
while looking for some high school memento
from my cheerleading days,
and opening the box and holding it
to my nose,
I thought I caught the smell:
a citrus scent evoked
by the illustration of a lime
on the green label:
English Leather Lime.
The cologne the box once housed
had belonged to my brother
forty years ago.
I recognized that scent
when the handsome
star of a rival basketball team—
passed through my parents’ front door
on a November evening.
It was my first date,
and I was afraid
to sit alone in the living room with him,
so my mother stayed close by
in the kitchen
while he courted me.
On our second date, though,
I savored our closeness
as we sat in his car
at our town’s drive-in theater
and awaited the film Thunder Road.
The speakers crackled B.J. Thomas’s
Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,
and when rain suddenly began to fall outside,
we looked at each other and smiled.
When the movie started,
he scooted closer and
coyly rested his dark head
on my shoulder,
his lime cologne mingling with the remnants of my
Love’s Fresh Lemon Cleanser.
He might have kissed me in a moment,
but when he reached to turn the ignition key
for heat and windshield wipers,
the engine would not start.
After that, he rushed around,
some tool in hand,
tinkering for a minute under the hood
and then trying the ignition again.
His efforts were useless, though,
and as if to admit defeat
he finally called his father
and then mine—
a courageous move indeed
since he was supposed to have taken me
to our warm downtown theater
to see Kurt Russell starring in
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.
When my father did drive up
in our red Mustang
to rescue me,
I never heard goodbye
from the boy
who huddled beside his father,
their heads bowed under the car hood,
both of them soaked and shivering
in the December rain.
Lady in the Truck
Lady in the Chevrolet truck,
parked beside me at Wal-Mart,
I can tell by the way
your blonde head leans against your window pane
and your side presses into the passenger door
that you cannot get far enough away
from the driver.
I know by the angle of his head,
the way his dark tangle of hair
shakes when he shouts at you,
that his anger couldn’t wait
until he took you home.
What are you thinking
when you peer out of the grimy window?
Do you take to heart
this man’s hard words?
Do you hurt when his fingers squeeze your arm
to make you listen?
I can see by the way he looks straight ahead now,
leaning to start the ignition,
that though his rage is not over,
he has spoken his mind.
I see by the way your head is lowered,
your hand covering your face,
that you do not want him
to spy your pain.
You are a young woman still,
and though I can’t discern your face,
I know it is a face
that another person could love.
Your mouth could smile at a lover’s whisper;
your eyes close at a caress.
Yet more so I know that
tonight when this man
pushes his body
close to yours
in your sweltering bed,
his voice calm,
cajoling you back,
you will look at him
and hope that his words
won’t be so cruel again,
that his love might be
worth your faith.
Two lovely heartbreaking poems. I love the story spun from a quick glimpse into someone else's life.
Thank you, Vicki. I find myself observing people maybe more than they want to be observed. I guess it's the writer's habit. I have not forgotten that lady in the truck, and I hope she's well today.
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