Shugborough Hall

                            Staffordshire, England

The flag is flying over the smog-grimed walls of Shugborough, seat of the earls of Lichfield. The earl, apparently, is in residence. We have driven almost a mile along a one-track road through the amusements the National Trust has designed to raise revenue, the farm, for instance, the plant shop. Littered along the expansive view are the remnants of Capability Brown's handiwork—a pagoda, temple, hunting lodge, the evenly spaced arrangements of English oak that seem to hug or hover along the ground, depending on your view.

We have come because we like the walk—a gravel footpath which follows the river, whose sinuous curves were artfully engineered to please the eye. We do not, will not, venture inside. Perhaps the price is prohibitive, or we know what such estates are like. On the other side of the bank, fevered with daffodils, a herd of cattle lazes in the wan English sun, vast machines moving their hulks across the pasture. Languid, almost inert. I know the future—its steady tug, dark water, storms to sail through.

The earl and his family arrange themselves on the terrace. No one is after a close up of them. The fountains and footpaths are expressly off-limits. The rose garden is not yet in bloom. The gravel makes my footing uncertain.

I can stop it here—abandon the memory in time. The landscape. The body—where is the poetic here? I can push beyond—when I come back I'm mother and daughter. Three women pose on the packbridge. The wind. Our sandwiches. Bargain bread. The flowers blown, the petals spent.