Friday, September 20, 2019


Carol Barrett, PANSIES: VIGNETTES (Sonder Press, New York, 2018 : )

She calls them "vignettes." They could also be "prose-poems," if we knew what the prose-poem is. This is a story told in little scenes, about a 15-year-old care-giver for the narrator's daughter. Abigail is one of the "plain folks" (Apostolics) who "live in my town." You think it is story about that girl.

Instead, it may be a story about the narrator's own journey, from calling the girl Abigail to calling her Abby, from some unspoken prejudice against the plain folks with religious belief different from her own to a kind of understanding which transcends religion, which transcends difference.

Why "pansies?"

"Pansies are a persistent breed. They take to the same soil, year after year. You rarely find an aberration, a cast-off, a hybrid wild with defiance. They never crowd each other for the light. When night comes, those velvet hearts prepared to propagate."

No one says the flower is a metaphor for anything else, but you know it is.

The narrator is surprised that Abigail didn't know how to make soup from a can. "It took some time to figure out how this girl-child could escape such a simple task: Abigail only makes soup from scratch." Plain folks. Pansies.

"All these years my father has drummed the difference between lay and lie," the narrator tells us. "As for Abigail -- she has won me over. I side with her, deciding 'it don't matter.' "

By the end, "Abbie is beaming. She is getting married." And, soon enough, "Abbie and her mother are both pregnant.... They are Mary and Elizabeth. They are mother and child, 'with child, with child.' "

Why pansies?"

"The French call the flower 'pensee,' meaning thought." And the thought is kindness. And the flower grows on both sides of the fence between us, whatever our differences.

There is sweetness in these "vignettes," light, comfort. As lovely as pansies moving in the wind. I come away thinking: kindness, my friends. You will too.

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