Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Ruth L. Schwartz is grateful that she’s able to redeem her youthful and not-so-youthful mistakes in poems. She is the author of five books, including the National Poetry Series winner Edgewater. She teaches creative writing in the low-residency MFA program at Ashland University and lives in Healdsburg, California.
When I was eight, I was so obsessed with Erich Segal’s novel Love Story that I memorized the first few paragraphs and recited them at every opportunity: “What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she loved Mozart. And Bach. And the Beatles. And me.”
This is how I met Hugo: I pick up strange men in my car, sometimes two or three at a time. I drive to the parts of town where they offer their bodies: on street corners, outside the paint store and Home Depot and U-Haul. When I slow down, they cluster around like — I was going to say, “like flies around a plate of fruit” or “like bees around a flower,” but the truth is, they swarm my car like men desperate for work. Hugo was so bold he just opened my passenger door and climbed right in.
I moved to the country after living in Oakland, California, for the better part of twenty-five years, adoring and defending my troubled city as if it were my wayward though generous lover.