Quicksilver

Can I be your quicksilver—that slick Forever,
that satiny poison you long to have near
but are too afraid to taste?
(Even the shadows under your feet radiate)
And may the line you walk
between the steel pillars of this city,
the threads you lay on gum-speckled sidewalks,
down regretful subway tracks, and over the rocking
boats docked in their places in this universe
be my orbit as well?
(You contain an asteroid cloud; you contain the Sun.)
And if you whisper Yes, Nathan, of course—
do I become comet or moon? Ignited or cratered?
Zooming or quietly watching in the dark
(such sweet poison) the glaciers of our understanding
expand and contract, the oceans swallow and rebuild islands,
the storms spiral and pummel and disintegrate and reemerge
across the geography of Years

Writing for YeahWrite #356. The prompt was using the words radiant, expand, and orbit. Click the badge above for more fantastic poetry and stories.

The Bedweaver

Last week, you came into my shop and told me you’d bought a fine new bed, and we agreed on a day and a time. That night I added up the sum total of our conversations, and determined that I had received more words from you during that conversation than you’d ever given me before. I slept tight in my chair with that fact over top of me.

Two days ago, I poured water into the washtub and let the sisal rope soak. The dog tried to harmonize with my humming. When I asked him to stop, I noticed he needed a washing, too.

Yesterday, I laid the sisal out naked in the June sun, wiped down the parts of my bed key, and then I scrubbed my nails clean and used the washtub for myself. Dipping my gnarled body into the water, starting from the corns on my feet to finishing with the grays on my chest. My shabby clothes and shabbier dog followed. After tossing the bathwater, I walked to Mrs. McLachlan’s garden and plucked some mint without asking. I asked the Lord to forgive my pride for not wanting her to know my intentions.

This morning, I will rush to your house. When you show me into your room, there will be on the floor your birch headboard, two posts, two long and two short support beams with a row of pegs like upside down thimbles on one side of each. I will drop my sisal and my key and get straight to work. As I assemble your bedstead, I will ask your thoughts of the new pastor. At some point, your children’s voices will run through the open window and around and between and through us. When the frame is at attention on the plankwood floor, I will say: My, but your bedstead is grand, Mrs. Putnam. You will smell mint on my breath and smile as you leave the room.

After I’ve woven the rope around each peg and used the key to pull slack from the sisal grid, I will tie hitch knots diagonally from the southwest corner to the northeast and slide your horsehair mattress over my work. I will make a point not to think of you as the Widow Putnam anymore, and I will tell you as I leave about the knots, how they keep the bed from sagging too soon. But, really, they are meant to remind you of my brief presence in your home, how well I fit there, and the comfort I bring.

I am a superstitious man and every little bit helps.

Aleutian

a man can walk the Bering Sea
with ice stones placed strategic’ly
his breath would bead, then reappear
Kamchatka beaches slick and sheer
each rock-tipped isle an apogee

aligned amid my fantasy
that one would come and rescue me
no winter-coated crowd to cheer:
a man can walk the Bering Sea

a gorgeous garland it would be
if someone dared to cross alee
his wand’ring words would reach my ear
and spur the sides of trotting fear
oh, only then would I agree
a man can walk the Bering Sea

 

Apartment Full of Trees

Follow me to furloughed
fields, to cities fitted
‘round a sea less salty.
S’there we’ll start our garden.

I’ll blast far ‘neath flagstone
for you; till a trillion
seedlings strewn by starlight;
foster future forests.

This is my first attempt at a drottkvaett for April’s poetry slam. Read more great fiction and poetry by clicking the badge above!

The One-Two Punch

Late one night when I was 9, I awoke to the sound of my own name. In the dim hallway just outside my bedroom stood an inky silhouette, and even though I couldn’t see its eyes, I knew that silhouette was staring at me.

Chills, sweat, panic. As the shadow shifted its weight, I saw something familiar in its posture. I recognized my grandfather. A joy mixed with my fear, but something still wasn’t right. I heard the sound of chains (the dog’s leash?) from the other side of the house, and Grandpa was gone.

I got up and walked down the hall to search for him, but stopped when I remembered it was no use. He’d passed away years ago. I can’t say with certainty that he visited me that night, but I’m sure of the unlikely mix of joy and panic I felt in that moment.  I have felt it on two other occasions— both occasions were just as momentous. I want that mix of emotion to have a name.

It needs a name.

Years later, I was sitting across from a friend in the red vinyl booth of an empty diner. A wobbly table separated us and dusty wreaths hung over our heads.

When our conversation turned to his current boyfriend, I discovered I was jealous. Ok, technically my friend was an ex, but he never felt like one; our friendship never soured afterward like with others. Oh, I wanted him back. I wavered on telling him for a while that night (rejection itself was scary enough; re-rejection was mortifying), but eventually summoned the courage:

“I still compare everyone I date to you.”

His brows turned down with concern; his eyes searched my face. I was hit by that same one-two punch: scared to death of the risk I was taking but elated by my epiphany. After the longest pause of my life, he told me he felt the same way. We’ve been together ever since.

The third time I felt the punch I was sitting next to my supine father a day after his triple by-pass. I’d never seen him so vulnerable— machines watched over him like sentinels, their cords reaching around every part of his limp body. He looked like he was caught in a web.

My mother and I were listening to him fill the room with words. He was terrified. We all were. As some nurse checked Dad’s blood pressure, Mom made a casual comment about how I must have driven 90 mph the entire way to the hospital because I got there so fast. “I thought I’d lost my father,” I snapped. “Of course I sped to get here.” A look crossed my Dad’s face before he slipped his hand into mine, keeping it there as he continued talking.

Dad is not the expressive type— that is the only time he’s ever held my hand in my adult life. I sat there fighting back tears because of the stress of the last two days, but also because I was so glad he was still with us.

What word could I use to describe the terrible gladness of that moment with my father, the scary elation of telling my ex I wanted him back, or the joyful panic of seeing my dead grandfather? Why is there no word for these horribly fantastic moments in our lives? There should be a word for it.