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only the footprints are gone













Only the Footprints Are Gone

(a poem from the book)

On that blustery February day,
Sister ordered our 8th grade class,
all except Bernice,
to kneel on the creaky wooden floor
in that narrow, drafty hallway
reserved for punishment.

That morning
some kids had snickered
when Bernice lumbered
up to the wide windowsill
and drew out card after card
from the lovely Valentine box,
none bearing her name.

When she turned to face us,
a tear slid down her cheek
as she straightened the flowered smock,
nailed on a smile as wooden as
the crude black cross hanging
around her neck.

She struggled to squeeze
her thickening body
into the old initialed desk
and to block out all whispers
of giggling classmates
who couldn’t understand
that some girls have
strange ways of reaching
for heaven.


(a poem from the book)

“I’m going to die today,” she said
and she did
just as surely as she predicted
the bleeding heart would bloom,
the sweet peas would climb our fence
and the nasturtiums would be ready
for the cut-glass vase;
just as surely as she predicted
the scars on my knees and elbows
would heal “before you get married”
after she dug the long slivers
from the top layers of my skin;
just as surely as she predicted
her friends would come on Saturday
for fresh kuchen and tea.

What she couldn’t predict was
on a much later February 1,
a girl-child, her grand-daughter
would be born
and grow to be a woman
of predictions too
a woman who anticipates
trillium in the spring
who forecasts greater scars will heal
who expects the taste and smell
of all good things.

© 1987, Kay Saunders