restricted access The First Turn Might Be the Right One Home
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The First Turn Might Be the Right One Home

On a strange road, the first turn you see might be the right one home, as at a party, the first man you meet might be the one worth noticing. That is, if you’re lost looking for a man, or a road, don’t let your hands tighten and move too soon. Turn even once, you can’t go back: Think about the first time you were ever asked to dance. Then think about the last. The first turn in a pool is to the deep end. The first turn to religion is, like the first kiss, most uncertain and holiest; the first house you own with someone else is loneliest at night when he is gone. The man and you make a child, and it changes you together, as when a sunstruck window sways all the plants in a room the same direction toward the light. Clocks turn to tell time, so you believe the hours pass by instead of spinning you inside them. Day turns to night like paper to a love letter, until the ink spills all across the sky. The child turns a lamp on and off, on! off! he delights in power, and does not see how it will alter him. To turn into is to become; turn up, to arrive; turn away, to go deliberately blind—but you don’t turn older. You grow its complexion: you can’t remember another Italy than the one you visited at twenty, or how you used to pray. The child turns the faucet on and lets the silver rush his palm. His father is turning [End Page 8] pages in a magazine, and looking up from time to time to see the bath swell and deepen. Years ago, he turned to watch you walk in your cotton dress. The water brims. The naked child turns pink, then fish inside it. Your wishes have become so simple and tender: Let us have this love. A ring is made of turns, but you can’t take them. You only let them grip a single finger. [End Page 9]

Maria Hummel

Maria Hummel is the author of House and Fire, winner of the 2012 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize, and the novel Motherland, forthcoming from Counterpoint in 2014. Her poems and prose have appeared in Poetry, Narrative, Pushcart Prize XXXVI, and The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of Poetry Magazine.