In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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I bow to the pencil, the pencil maker, the tree that gave its wood, the graphite that fills its core, and the mind that conceived pencil. I bow to all the teeth and jaws that have chewed pencils out of boredom or nervousness. I bow to the child who explores the inside of his nose with a pencil until seen. I bow to the makers of Blackwing pencils, their attention to detail; to the person who named the black ones Palominos. I bow to the Palomino horse who didn’t throw me into a tree when I was fifteen like the Appaloosa did. I bow to the Appaloosa, who came back to check on me. I do not bow readily to the man who pulled the trigger to kill this horse, out of fear of being sued when he learned my neck was broken. But I do bow to him. I do not bow to my lawyer sister, just out of law school, who made the threatening phone call to the stables where I’d rented the horse when I should have been studying for math finals. No, I bow to her after all, trying to prove she had some power that could buy love or respect in my family. But I wish she had asked me what really happened. I would have told her that I’d been warned and that it was my fault. Despite the stable master’s warnings, I’d wanted the horse who’d been out to pasture for too long, the one named Cracker Jack. I bow to that young girl who still lives inside me, who still believes danger will appear suddenly, the way the tree once did. I bow to the tree, hoping it still stands. I bow to the adult who takes good care of this crooked spine. I bow to this battered skeleton that keeps picking itself up again and bracing for the next blow.
I bow to Mary Roy, and to her piece acknowledging those things that have made her who she is [“Reverence,” November 2018]. I bow to her mother and father who raised her; to the teachers who educated and molded her; to all the times she picked herself up; to the spunk she never lost; and to the hope and spirit she gives us.