Desire Path

MacDonald Frances Desire Path

Then and this. Now and here.

A pause.

Cool air shivers skin. The bus engine grumbles below plastic seats molded to cup a human’s soft places. Thighs of meat padding bone. Outside, women in a pack bustle down the sidewalk in jeans stretched taut.

The days grow shorter.

Even so, I forget. Forget to stop and touch the zinnia with its five shades of orange tethered to a center like chocolate. Forget to let the crepe myrtle dip across my cheek. Barely notice a fat bee chugging past me towards what bursts from the hedges. A body that should be too weighty for the tissue of wings somehow stays airborne.

I forget that eventually, everything falls. I forget to catch drift.

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To Fill The Air

cicada dreams

Walking the dog, it comes. Out of nowhere, or somewhere almost forgotten.

If my words did glow
With the gold of sunshine

A song.

Out loud. Into this ordinary day, I sing.

This is the first time in months my voice has opened like this. It is not the first song, no – there’s always the radio, always mugging for neighborhood kids.

But like this? Just the day, the dog, and me? I am new all over again.

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The First Walk After Goodbye

pregnant_lightning_bug

The trees are stage set,
a Las Vegas cabaret
on this suburban strip.
Lightning bugs in their drunken throb
dip and tumble
loose as the purple rope
of night falls
open. They couldn’t care less
who lurks here gaping
at their naked hunger.

Oblivious to the shape of you
emptying out of me,
they fill it the way they do
every hollow place, the way light
always does
but for just that blink
no matter how long we want it
bright and no matter how tight
we seal the lid. It goes out
again, a strobe
pulse, a chemical
flash burning to photon
guttering to black
before we can pin it in place
on this map of shadows.

Somehow the flicker
is enough, more
than enough, each firefly’s rutting
insistence a fizz that tickles full
the belly like sky
even with all that air
between each burst of light.


Image: Wolfepaw, “Pregnant Lightning Bug” at Deviant Art

Counting Country

blackberry farm

2 hawks burst from the upper branches

1 doe steps, pauses, steps again into the brush

1 neon-green bug skitters under the cover of a fallen leaf

On its back, 1 tiny frog pinwheels its legs until I toe it upright and it springs into the weeds

3 patches of vines curl around their stash of not-yet-ripe raspberries

5 fingers of thorns twist across the frothy pink blush of not-yet-ripe blackberries

1 pond plucks and echoes with the calls of rubber-band frogs

2 tractors packed with children and parents wave and rumble and sway and wave some more

12 rows of new corn cascade up and out, as high as a goat’s belly

1 creek warbles along its stone bank, becomes another as it bends into shadow, another as it reappears in a cut of morning light

100 blades of grass tickle four bare calves

1 lone cow glances up and continues to chew, 1 ear flicking at a half dozen flies

1 roller truck with 2 steel wheels makes 6, 7, 8 passes over the gravel lot pressing its noise over every other word

3 children sit in 3 patches of shade eating 3 mounds of shaved ice in 3 meting stripes of flavor

4 children in helmets lead 4 stoic horses into a barn

8 children with bare heads ride 8 plastic horses in lazy circles

2 women step between damp sponges of earth into the cascading chiaroscuro of leaf and web and wing


Image: Walt Curlee, “Appalachian Blackberry Patch Farm” from Walt Curlee Art

 

 

 

97. Things I Can Redraw: The Boundary Lines

resistance

I remember to look up. The reason I remember is because I have been so busy looking down.

Down, yes, but looking as in actually seeing.

Vision is an unexpected discovery, like a forgotten scent stirring in a place of dead things. Like yesterday when I caught myself singing as I ironed my purple shirt for work. I’m gonna let it shine. . . The silvery thread of music startled me to a shiver.

My song. Still here. My sight. Always, again.

I have been looking down and so noticed for the first time the thick ropes of roots pushing up the sidewalk. This is why I’ve stopped and let my gaze slide up the gnarled skin, up and up into the turning leaves.

“What?” Bug says. He almost plows into me. Then he too peers skyward. Cars rip past us on the clogged road. His is an all-wheel-drive school. Walking is forbidden because keeping the children a safe distance from these thin-lipped, texting, whiplash drivers trumps community concerns about obesity levels and global temperatures.

It’s rare these days that this stretched-to-splitting mama has the guts or gas to rebel. Oh, but it is a tasty little thrill when she does. Because sometimes we have to step right out in front of absurdity. Sometimes we even have to let it run us down. How else do we keep the winners from winning it all?

Once in a while when the train arrives two minutes early or the traffic parts like the biblical sea two blocks from my neighborhood, a gash opens in the choking press of late hurry go more go hurry late. It is a bright gust, it is mountaintop air.

It is opportunity.

I get to flout that stupidest of stupid policies.

I get to walk.

And here we are doing exactly that. Bug is wearing his backpack and his first sweatshirt of fall. I’m wearing my Wellies. Hurricane Joaquin in bearing down on us and we are taking the slow route home.

We gaze up together.

“Have you ever noticed how big this tree is?” I ask.

He considers it. “Big how?”

“Look at these roots. The whole sidewalk is a hill. It’s growing right under us.” We nudge our toes at the knobby knees pressing through concrete. “It probably goes all the way across the road.”

Bug lifts his gaze again to the towering branches far above. “It would be hard to climb.” We circle around it and take in the grade of the sloping grass. Then he peers across the grounds of the hulking telecom sales center that abuts our neighborhood. “That one.” He points to a drooping, naked thing with one arm. “That’s a good climbing tree.”

We cut across, striding right through the chain of “No Trespassing” signs. Bug tosses his backpack on the soaked ground and gives me a sly grin. “You first.”

I consider my twinged back, the slick bark, a throbbing current of sleep deprivation. Oh, the warm couch waiting. Then I shrug. “Okay.”

I shimmy and slide, hooking my knee over a knot and swinging myself up. Bug tries but his shoes keep slipping. He peels off his sweatshirt and ties it around the trunk. “If it’s dry, maybe I can get up.” This is an imperfect plan. After his third try, he leaves the jersey limp and tethered like an abandoned prisoner. He races off towards another stand of trees. “That one!” He cries and leaves me to collect our things.

Inside a sheltering arc of boughs he ranks them, 1-2-3, from easiest to hardest. I go first again, contorting my limbs to fit. I haul my mass onto a branch and perch there under a damp canopy. He gets partway up too before we both sort of spill off. I laugh and show him my hands. Mud has worked its way deep in. Laugh line, love line, all in bold. He holds up his grimy palm and I give him a high five.

Near our heads dangles a bulbous seed cluster we notice now for the first time. From tumorous, split husks gleam half a dozen cherry-red zombie eyes. They look like they might actually blink. We step back and decide to forgo a deeper investigation.

As we circle the parking lot for the shortcut home, I glance up again. “If the hurricane does come, we may lose all these leaves before they even change.”

Bug kicks at some that have fallen. He stops at the edge of a cracked tree whose branches on one side are entirely bare. The other side is draped in rust foliage.

“The rain is coming,” he says.

“How do you know?”

“Feel that,” he says. “There’s a gust.” He lifts his face. I do the same.

“It’s darker too,” I say. “Storm dark.” We both watch the steel sky churn.

“Whenever there’s a gust, it rains,” he tells me. “The rain is probably like 30 seconds to 5 minutes away.”

“We’d better get home quick.”

“Okay,” he says. “And we can make a fire and wait for the flood.”

Image from the Cheap Art collection of the Bread and Puppet theater in Glover, Vermont

45. Things I Can Catch: Night Light

Four days of rain. Then an afternoon storm, a morning threat, and another downpour. A week of this at least. We lose count. We pack away the idle swimsuits and slog through every errand with an extra umbrella in the passenger seat.

Floorboards buckle up from slab. The door swells, resisting its jamb’s unyielding corset. Tiny ants breach the cinnamon fortress and try to escape into the pages of books, the weave of the carpet, any island in this ever-expanding gulf of damp. On the balcony, the cilantro and parsley bolt then shrivel. The snow peas, drunk and throbbing just days ago, now droop from bleached stems.

Even the bedsheets offer no relief. An invisible film binds leg, thigh, cheek, lashing us against the dark wash of dreams.

Before another futile attempt at sleep, I must go out. I take the dog. The sky is taking a breath so we hop over a thousand small pools and wind our way past the jungle gym and the swingset. We climb through the creeping vine tunnel and slip out beyond the lamplit warren of our neighborhood.

Out there is field, shadow, the traffic plunging below the horizon in a steady aquatic hush. The first lightning bug shines its beacon low across the brambles.

A honeysuckle mist clings to the remains of the equinox, lingering like spider silk long after its source has taken leave.

Thunder miles off growls across the distance, flashing its tail, baring its blunt teeth.