The Olson Sisters: Field Notes of a Descendent
They looked alike back then, as any pair
of sisters can, and spoke in our clan voice.
Yet there all semblance ends. There, the trail branches:
daughters, nieces, grands and greats, must choose
a fork or stray down one with little heed
for the consequence of family mimicry.
A botanist with scant regard for genus,
I mist our orchid genera and log
the scentless differentia that all
our petals, sepals, lips, conspire to mask.
Like the ornate jewelry boxes she collects,
indifferent to trinkets inside, the younger
loves surface quelling form: the high baroque
of Cellini’s salt and pepper bowls concealed
amid enamel, gold, and ebony,
with Nymph and Neptune huge above the spice,
his facial cast more petulant than godly.
Nymph’s thumb and fingers idly cup her nipple.
Perhaps he pouts at this impertinent pose?
Perhaps he knows he’s just a bantam knock-off
of Michelangelo’s huge “Day”? And so
turns glum as any junk-bondsman now sunk
to schlepping ketchup packets to fast-food
condiment bins? There!—see how such excess
distracts us from the task of salting meat?
The older sister? No collections there.
Shelves kept spare and free of clutter, dust.
If a box, then she was made of unvarnished wood.
Joints trim. Apart from function, no décor.
Hold to the ear—do you hear the whir of watch-works?
Inside, a mechanism plain with purpose,
gears ticking close in tolerance. A thrift
of sufficiency. A shift to just enough.
Make no apologies, both the old sisters
would agree: the elder gone the way
of the wild native orchid, “Lady’s Slipper.”
The younger slipping her hold on that tree bark
where the mind shelters from the clutter of soil.
Carolyn Moore’s three chapbooks won their respective competitions as has her first book-length manuscript, Instructions for Traveling Light, pending publication from Deep Bowl Press. She taught at Humboldt State University (Arcata, California) until she could eke out a living as a freelance writer and researcher working from the last vestige of the family farm in Tigard, Oregon.