poem & a story by
thrashing nettles the bruise-colored
berries emerge in patches on the gravel path
that runs behind my mothers house.
We walk through weeks early,
jolting rabbits from the weeds,
itching pastures overgrown for years.
The family left five rusted hills
in the boxwood yard, and barns
pocked with rot and nesting birds.
The silo is fuzzed with ivy
and creepers, raspberries flanking,
sentries to empty threats.
As far back as I go, we had tomatoes
and corn, a plot run through
with gravel as this, vultures hovering.
My father put a wheel in my hand
there, the pathway safe, straight,
direct, without curves or troughs.
Then raspberries lined the road as handouts,
offering themselves directly, gifts
for living, for breathing, solace.
Today, as we prod the clacking
doors with branches and squint
in the familiar sun, the fruited
thistles seem sharper, discreet,
less governed, and clouds
darker, filled with veiled turmoil.
headed to Richmond on the midnight bus, a young couple, wary, thin-skinned.
Rachel flips on her reading light, twists on the airflow. Calvert watches
the woman on the other side of the aisle play solitaire on her lap.
The reflection of the reading light marks a hexagon against the black
window. Calvert glances at his watch, and Rachel peers from her book
to see. The bus seems to float through the night.
stuffy in here, Rachel says.
Calvert says. Hows the book?
knows she wont elaborate. Their relationship has altered in this
way. Rachel is tight-lipped. Silence is now more comfortable, always
at the ready. Rachel wonders what Calvert is thinking. She knows he
wouldnt say even if she asked.
has much to say, actually. Hed love to tell her how disappointed
he is in the arc of their closeness, how their marriage has become confined
to comfort, how his father rubbed off on him the wrong way, and for
that hes sorry. Rachel has questions, about Calverts father,
about simple childhood stories, about their closeness. She doesnt
ask. They are comfortable reading, watching others.
thinks about his father often, the master of polymers, the inventor
of Teflon. His father used to recount the moment of discovery: how he
cracked the valve but no freon whistled out, how the tetra flouroethylene
mix became a polymer unexpectedly. Then, his eyes would dart, as he
remembered the Manhattan Project scientists who needed a gasket, and
the New Jersey company who bought the powder, keeping it in two hundred
and fifty pound kegs in a bank for collateral. Rachel has heard it all
I bore you? He asks suddenly.
She snaps her book closed, peers up from the ring of light.
shakes her head, squeezes his hand. At times Rachel wonders if hes
depressed, yet she thinks, surely this is just the age in which were
living. If hes depressed, were all depressed. And whats
the difference anyway?
wasnt supposed to tell anybody about the bomb, a secret between
his father and the government. But now its out. Calvert feels
embarrassed. He betrayed his father blatantly, and now
be able to
woman stacks her cards, flips her reading light off, and closes her
eyes. Calvert turns towards his wife, pats her kneecap. Rachel places
her hand on top of his. Her touch eases his failures. That is something,
bus is quiet, he says.
she says. Its dark and quiet.