He mouthed dark nouns, his verbs
menacing as wasps.
He blacked my mother's eyes
with his tongue while his hands
nested in his lap.
Her hands played the broken
bird, drew my father's ire
away from fledglings on the ground.
His silences were worse--
minutes honed on a razor strop,
small wheel cutting glass,
the sheen of a cottonmouth knifing
through rough grass.
Watermelon rind crushed on the asphalt road.
Sunlight filters through the pin oaks
and the swings squeal on burnished chains.
Great uncles hunker by the lake
talking of tobacco, catfish batter,
that bastard of a president.
Pleasant June is unwavering.
I wonder what to do with myself,
just this side of forty, stiff in the knees,
fishing for sodas in the ice chest,
imagining one last shimmy up a tree.
My wife and I let our fingers touch,
put in time waving flies from a three-bean salad,
a smudge of deviled eggs. I passed through
my mother to make it to this place,
but there are whole limbs of her family tree
I couldn't name, cousins I wouldn't know to kiss.
Snap closed the Tupperware and load up the trunk--
it's off to Calhoun in the morning. See you
in ten more years, one last time
to hear my mother laugh, see her stand half out
of history with Samuel, Galen and Doc,
Pop Edsel in his wobbly chair, a slender
cane across his lap, my mother young again on the lips.
Kissing every faltering face at sleep's elusive border, mile markers
slipping by at high beam's edge. This twilight time
when my brother is a little boy again,
his feet in my father's lap,
head cradled in my mother's. She searches
for something in his slack face.
The moon is high above the car,
and like our mother,
fills the landscape with a tender light.
There are those seconds
that spiral back on us--
someone bending through a doorway,
someone catching champagne cork
in a checkered cloth. But those are moments
out of place-- naps behind the wheel of a car,
a yellow jacket in the mouth
of a soda can, a ten of diamonds on a sidewalk, dimpled and dirty.
We follow the deer tracks to the break in the fence.
The wind rises and stings the hands, the eyes. The dog is deep
in the grass, does not want to head home.
This will be one of those moments--
your daughter and I out for a walk, windows of the farm house
dim with dinner's steam, you at the wobbly table waiting for a way to
the news that you're dying. Words like the far horizon, words
like a space the fence can never hold in.
Brent Fisk has work forthcoming in Fugue and Prairie Schooner. He is a
recent recipient of the Willow Award and the Sam Ragan Prize and has
received four Pushcart nominations in the last two years. His first
book manuscript, Accidental Body of Knowledge, is nearing completion.
The work of Charles Simic and Alan Shapiro is among his favorites.