|Jul/Aug 2008 Poetry Special Feature|
The Rainy Season
Agate may be the accepted gemstone
for anniversaries twelve and fourteen,
but I don't see us lasting beyond this,
our seventh year. Set in motion,
the itch is like a clock
intent on devouring itself. Tick tock.
She stood in the Target parking lot
and fumbled with her keys.
It must be the lock, she said.
It must be my luck, I thought.
Rain splattered her celery green dress
and streaked her waterproof mascara.
Simple words, really. Do you need a lift?
I walked beneath the awning and entered
the coffee shop. The smell of roasted
beans and cigars almost strong enough
to lull me into a place of comfort,
until I looked through the window
and saw her seated next to you.
As your truck pulled away, your bodies
moved closer, like two stones
tossed into a cistern, destined to hit
water shallow as a grave.
The Last Days
We were all targets then, even without knowing
what was bearing down on us. At first,
the only signs we noticed: the way
the stars dimmed and the hills
paled, how everything turned
celery green. The bark shed from trees
like sunburned skin. Overhead,
the sky went from blue to gunmetal gray,
the clouds hardened like pieces of agate.
The sulphur smell permeated our hair
and clothes, the first layers of our skin.
The veins running through our bodies
thickened and swelled as if
our blood had congealed like plastic.
We had never been so cold or lonely.
Hunger was an ugly thing.
We remembered the field where we'd
played as children, and later embraced
as lovers, consumed by the plains
and recesses that made our bodies new.
We go there now, stepping over the dead
and dying. We make our way along
the ash-covered slope until we find again
the open cistern holding the last clean rain.
Against our losses, it is memory that sustains us:
once upon a time, we were minnows
circling each other's bodies in a shallow pool.
After she left, my father took
her porcelain dolls and lined them up
like hostages along the fence posts.
Standing back a few feet, he aimed
his pistol at one head, then the next,
firing bullets into each perfect skull,
coming back to shoot the hands off
her favorite, a brunette Scarlett O'Hara
dressed in dark green velvet
sewn from her mother's draperies.
When he finished, he yelled to me
in the kitchen, where I stood at the window,
a stalk of celery holding down my tongue
as if I expected to collapse in a seizure
like the epileptic girl who sat next to me
in Sunday School. "Clean up this mess,"
he yelled, and his voice
pitched me into the yard where
I gathered first the bodies, and then the shards,
hard as the agate that marks these hills.
I tossed everything into the empty cistern.
Overhead, geese flew unafraid
in their usual formation.