By Rita Ott Ramstad
I knew it wouldn’t go easy as soon as we got out of the car,
that this town would be too cute for us to paint in colors or words.
So we wandered, aimless, knowing that sometimes wandering is the only good option.
We’ve learned, haven’t we, the futility of trying to force what can’t be?
Either it would happen or it wouldn’t.
We could live with either outcome.
Two streets down from the center of town, you finally found something
to work with near the empty train cars, where the railroad trestle punctuates the landscape like an exclamation point, and a tangle of blackberry bushes paints a line
between a parking lot and a road.
Most of its berries were too much like the days of the summer that is almost gone,
dried husks empty of juice. But there were still a few like today, full and sweet.
We ate them the way children do, saving none for later.
You’re there now, capturing what you see with your camera, not your brush.
Either way, images shaped by your eye.
There really aren’t any rules we have to follow, and it’s good
Not to be too bound to what we thought we’d do or find.
There are still too many cute shops, too many people tanned and lean.
But remember that one spot between those two buildings, that slice of river and hill that would not have looked quite the same without its concrete frame?
Or that mosaic wall, or the trellis we sat under, or that shop with the used books?
There is something here, too, in this small café where I’ve found a chair,
the echo of all the coffee shops we’ve ever sat in that I can hear in the chatter
of the people around me, the fountain splattering on the plaza stones.
There is something in the almost seamless boundary between shop and sidewalk,
and in the woman lounging in a chair with a t-shirt covering her face,
book slumped on her lap. This day has breathed as slowly and deeply as she—
there was the long inhale over breakfast at Bette’s, the exhale on the bench outside
the library, my head resting in the hollow of your shoulder, sure
that sitting there wasn’t wasted time, that none of the time we spend is wasted,
that it all will be put to use, even the minutes surrounded by quaint shops
and tourists so busy, busy, busy in their bustle down these sweet streets.
Oh, here you are, back again, happy.
You say it’s a good day if you get just two good shots,
And you’re sure you have them.
At least two, maybe more.
And I have this piece I’m about to show you; I guess I’ll call it a poem.
We have what we came for, and more than we need, for sure.
Rita Ott Ramstad is an English teacher at The Center for Advanced Learning in Gresham. Her book The Play of Dark and Light won the 2003 Stafford/Hall Oregon Book Award for poetry, and her students have twice been state champions in Poetry Out Loud, a poetry recitation contest.