Her Pine Valley Landscape

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Contributor: Barbara Carlton

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(Alfred Mitchell, c. 1940)

In the diaspora of her treasures, to me drifts
a tiny painting, very old, backcountry colors
in dots and swirls and sweeps: a scattered village
in a montane valley dozing
on a winter afternoon of green hills
under a snow-laced ridge
and pale sky; an hour trapped,
like a seed in amber. Stories--
hers, the painter’s, mine--braid together
in its silver-gilded frame like colored threads
humming in the wind that knot together
for a moment, before they blow away.

The painter is long since gone. My story
I know. Hers--how this came to her
and why--only teases me in some
nearly-remembered tongue; the words blow
past my ear like a light wind through
a valley on a winter afternoon
and disappear. I listen, but the edges
of her face reverberate, and begin to blur.

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I am a writer and architect living in the San Diego, California, area. My parents are long dead and my children are grown. It's a good vantage point for thinking.


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