Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Freewriting exercise today . . .

Galway Kinnell, “A New Selected Poems,” (poem entitled The Last Hiding Places of Snow) page 103.

“I know there are regrets we can never be rid of, that fade but never leave: permanent remorse.”

My name is Maylene Myrna Johnston and I’ve lived much longer than anyone expected. I’ve probably lived much longer than I should have lived. But still, I’m here. My twin sister Mureen Myrna Johnston and I were born in 1921, in the second floor bedroom during the worst heat wave ever recorded in Mt. Rainier, Maryland. I’m living alone now in that house where I was born, but long ago I locked that bedroom door and threw away the key. Back then Papa made his living selling ice and coal and he tells the story of how he set up electric fans and blocks of ice to try to make the birthing room cooler for my mother. He said the midwife wrapped ice in linen towels and rubbed the ice all over her. The heat was unrelenting and the labor was long. My mother was a tiny woman whose belly seemed unusually large for her first pregnancy, yet no one knew there were twins coming. I was born first, bright pink, entering life with a loud screeching wail. Maybe I’ll soon leave this life with a loud screeching wail. The midwife quickly became aware that there was a second baby to be birthed. Mureen was born second, blue and gasping for breath. She faded from life soon after birth and my mother followed her. All this long life of mine I have felt like half of a whole, like the price of my life was the loss of two others. Papa took care of me as best he could and then I took care of him as best I could. I did get some schooling but most of what I learned came from books. I never associated much with neighbors or other children because I always felt they were talking behind my back, saying, “She’s the girl who killed her mother and her twin sister.” It’s a burden to live a long life of solitude, to feel the presence of ghosts. I know there are regrets we can never be rid of, that fade but never leave: permanent remorse.

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