Crystalline air shivers with traffic: I turn my back
on the black strip of Route 15 out of town. My nose
shies from the gasoline fumes; the pump
handle hums coldly beneath my hand.
High above the gas station, a hawk circles, spying
all of us, but spying no food, and I watch,
blowing clouds, shoulders aching with
the momentary longing for wings, as he wheels raggedly away
in his avian disappointment. I wish I knew
more about birds, but I never learned.
Just as I never learned anything of planes, except
perhaps of the two-seater that used to land,
on every good day, in the long field behind this grubby lot,
where the fraying flags, buffeted by January winds, still mark
the evenest stretch. The pilot, each morning,
coasting to a stop, jumping down to don
his coverall with Pegasus winging across the breast:
all day with his head under hoods or his torso
under chassis, never seeing the sun
until he leapt into it at the end of the day.
The little plane hasn’t landed in years.
The station is self-service now, the pump
jumping under my hand once the tank is full.
The winter sky shimmers in its emptiness,
no spiraling hawk, no plane, nothing.
When did he stop flying?
Why on earth did I never start?
Tonight you rap the air with your knuckles
and it cuts your bare skin.
The cold rings out over the white flatness
of Plymouth Pond, to where ice shacks
huddle for companionship, not for warmth.
The silence, when you kill the engine,
is louder than you can bear.
Only the stars, and the oil lanterns, flickering
in those tiny windows of those tiny houses,
give any light to the road ahead, the road behind.
That light is dim, and unhelpful, and
you rest your forehead against
the steering wheel, wondering which way
to turn. Roll down the window, breathe
the air which freezes its way into your nose
and down to your lungs, and which ices
the tears you haven’t the energy to cry.
It’s late. It’s winter. You are alone. Get used to it.
When the rains finally came,
I was waiting.
When the sky cracked open,
I lifted my face to the bruisy clouds.
When the winds rushed through the silver birches,
the birds fell silent.
When the lightning clove the darkness,
I closed my eyes.
When the storm washed the dry grass,
it grew full and green beneath my bare feet.
When the water, drop by drop, filled my cupped hands,
I lifted them to my lips and drank.
When finally the rain began to fall,
lightly at first, then with more fervor,
until the torrents drove into her skin
like the needles of a mad acupuncturist,
she climbed up into her raised bed
and lay down among the rivulets
veining the deepening mud. She listened
to her hair snaking its way downward,
rooting deep in the soil; she felt herself
sink, her fingers curling in to grasp
the ground. Her clothing washed away.
In the morning when she had softened
and her skin cracked open, she lifted her eyes
to the watery sun, let the dual leaves
of sproutlings reach from her joints
toward air and sky. Thick strong stalks
of potato plants grew from her knees,
sharp-bladed corn from her wrists and elbows.
Her eyes were peas. Beets filled
her bloodstream. August came.
When she rose up, the crows squawked in alarm
and scattered into the clouds, recognizing
full well their dangerous mother.
The book, closed now, slides
from her hands to lie beside
her on the bed. The story is done.
Or is it? All around, the evening
breathes, the light fading,
the curtain rising gently at the window
and again falling, in a way it never
seemed to before. Characters
form themselves from sound,
whistling, humming, all more
content to wait with her
for a next chapter no one yet
has written. How can the story
ever really be done?
Her own ribcage confines
far too much, wanting
to break out into the deepening
night beyond the open window,
each breath expanding
the world trapped inside.
is a writer, teacher, musician, cyclist, and many other things. She lives on the side of a mountain in a 240-year-old house with her children and assorted animals and can be found most evenings at a baseball or softball game. She has published two chapbooks, The Church of St. Materiana (Moon Pie Press, 2007) and The Beauty of It (Sheltering Pines Press, 2010); and her poems have appeared in literary magazines in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain.