She left behind a deep faith in the good enough, thirty years in Tennessee
for the cornfields of Indiana. The acres of stalks looming, sky a parchment
singed, white froth on a dog’s lip. The house she was lulled to, bought on credit.
Twin mattresses belonging to someone’s children, pushed together. At night
a leg or arm slides into the gap, becomes numb and separate from the body
like a criticism between lovers. Mother told her she was weightless to him,
sunlight on his shoulder. But she did not want to be left a little at a time,
like streets abandoned to darkness. The fields surround as graceful as the arc
of waves in the ocean, as endless. She walks the paths the cows make each day
with their large comely bodies. The air clenched around her like a fist.
In the bathroom she tests the faucets: hot / cold, on / off. Her face in the mirror:
what can reflect, what cannot.
An iron gate
and the drive that follows:
arched overhead, like church.
An impediment, this night
I wear as a dress
from another century. Even now,
I think of you on the staircase,
the blood-red rhododendrons
And another night, from years before:
Laughter, salt-water stained
boards, a bed. You,
dark-haired like a foreshadowing,
and the scent of crushed-lilac
from your garden by the sea.
Renee Emerson teaches poetry at Shorter University. She has recently published here at 2River and in 32 poems, Indiana Review, and Stirring. The most recent of her three chapbooks is Where Nothing Can Grow (Batcat Press). contact