And I Couldn’t See for the Sun

fern-gardening

Photo from bobvila.com

I came to his office in the morning, mottled plants breathing
stale sunlight, parched in the absence of dew.
He told me of his life and the travels he wished he’d taken,
crusty dreams now buried, justified beneath the job, the kids,
the wife I don’t wish to hear about.

We talked, or rather, I listened, and nodded, and quietly scrutinized
middle age and how it frightens people, makes them feel they must
prove their merit to the young. I vowed I would not place a value
on his head like a barcode containing all the necessary information
about the product.

The clock regarded us impatiently. I shuffled my belongings to announce
my departure, rose hesitant, and caught his gaze for a second too long.

We are always aging, always making mistakes. I ought to be a green fern
frying in the sun, so pleased with the warmth that I ignore the
way my fronds wither, the way my color seeps out of me and into the earth.

I Might Have Fallen in Love Today

I felt sparks flying behind my eyes when they locked with yours.
I was worked up, sweating. You helped me take apart the garden beds,
set the screwdriver to the boards, showed me how it’s done.

I marveled in the way your dirty Carhartt pants fit, slim but loose,
gliding over your angles and curves. I couldn’t tear my eyes away.
But words became trapped in my throat, glued to my insecurity.
She doesn’t like me. I was afraid of rejection, of shame.

Now I am afraid of never knowing you, of walking down streets
for the rest of my life and forever searching the faces for yours.
Now I am afraid that I made a mistake out of fear.
I should have asked your name, looked deep into your eyes,
brushed your arm, taken your hand, smiled at you longer.

Now all I can do is write a “Missed Connection” on Craigslist
and sit on my couch, thinking of your eyes
and how they melted me.

Gem

Image

Picture from yokohama.progressionstudios.com 

Sometimes I think if we were together. If I’d offered more engaging conversation when we met for coffee. I had sipped and scanned the pages of a Ray Bradbury book as I waited in the sun. You were late. I became nervous. Sometimes I still think if I’d been more outgoing. I still think about embracing you, and meeting your witty friends, and dropping into dark bars. If we were together I would treat you like the gem you are. You are not a diamond, which is too flashy, and uses its beauty to its advantage. You are more of a warm and glowing topaz. There would be no morning you’d awaken without me in the kitchen, brewing fresh coffee, flipping blueberry pancakes, and singing to The Avett Brothers. I’d rouse you with gentle kisses on the forehead that slowly turn into more urgent kisses as I slide back under the duvet. Every morning would be sunshine. I would read your poems and nod, tracing line after line so I could feel your words pulse against my skin. Some of your nonfiction would allow my tears to escape. I could be quiet. I would respect your schedule. You would come home from work to find me hunched over a book, or some other form of paper. Doing my own work. You would leave me sticky notes to discover throughout the day when you were gone: in the bathroom sink, on the laundry, beneath the cat. Wine tonight? We’d drink giddy together, and wander twilight streets to a park to watch the sun set. On lazy weekend afternoons, we’d lounge on the bedroom floor, poring over my photographs. I would tell you the story of my life, slowly. You would listen calmly, wise as usual. A rock in the storm. Though I think this, I wonder if we were together, I know we aren’t and won’t be. I was timid and confused. Still confused. Just know, wherever you are, you are such a gorgeous gem of a woman.

Rainy Day Rememberings

The day wears its gray shroud protectively, keeping the clouds tucked in close and sending roaring gales through the alder in the front yard. I’ve just showered. On the walk home from campus, the rain soaked my pants until denim melded to my skin and my socks oozed with every step. Our neighborhood smelled clean. I burst through my back door in a fit of chills and irritation.

~

A month ago I was in California. The temperature climbed up into the mid nineties every afternoon, and we stayed inside where it was cool, basking in the breeze of an electric fan. Now indoors is where I go to warm up beneath a blanket. A month ago, the grass was knee-high and cracked golden from perpetual sun. Lizards were more common than squirrels, darting from the dust path into the refuge of grapevines when my footfalls interrupted their sunbathing.

~

I found a baby rattlesnake. Marcus was unhappy because that meant he’d have to kill it, but Pierre volunteered. He took a picture of the snake with his phone first. The shovel that I’d been moving garden soil with was used. Pierre advanced on the snake; it seemed uncertain and terrified, tearing along the planting bed edge and rearing up to expose its slender rope of a body. Then a swift thump against the wood. I didn’t want to look. The rattlesnake’s head snapped on the ground, feet from its convulsing body. Marcus held it up to examine the underdeveloped rattle, and dark blood was trickling out where its head had been severed off. My face was wet. Pierre hooked an arm around my shoulders and tried to pull me close. I’m sorry, he said.

Bear Paw

It’s so hot, you can hardly stand in the shade without breaking a sweat. I escape to the big house a little before two, when the sun is casting the shortest shadows and my skin has absorbed the heat like bread in an oven. Steve is out haying, even though the neighbors call him crazy to in this weather, but I need a rest. All the windows in the dining room are open, but the breeze can’t quite reach around the sides of the house and find its way in.

I’m looking out into the yard, across the overgrown garden and clothesline that has formed a V since one of the posts fell down. The collection of empty vases and flowerpots lining the windowsill adds to the loneliness felt upon walking through the door. Only spiders live here now. In the opposite direction, a picture window offers a view of the hay fields, far-off neighbors, and further still, the forested mountains that rise and fall along the horizon. Hummingbirds, three or four at a time, flock to a feeder hanging above the deck. They hover overhead, darting like tiny airplanes under the eaves. From the porch chairs you can see a few green acres, only a small fraction of the entire property.

It’s almost too hot to eat, but the kitchen counter is littered with fresh fruit and coffeecake and a peach is calling my name. I take big bites and let the juice cascade down my chin because it’s the kind of day when you do that just to have an excuse to splash your face with cold water afterwards.

Jan is at the top of the stairs vacuuming up dust and mice skeletons. Her mother’s possessions that are left- mostly books- are scattered and boxed and stacked in the room since no one knows what to do with them yet. Everyone’s sentimental about books. They are markers of curiosity and obsession, of yearning or frustration. “Canine Psychology”. “The Best Guide to Meditation”. A plethora of health and fitness magazines age in the corner. Joanne’s death was abrupt, unforeseen; in its wake it left confusion, heartache, and myriad books.

I’m sitting downstairs in the corner chair, snug in the angle created by two walls. Kodi the watchdog is perpetually smiling as he naps beneath my legs. My feet are propped up on an ancient suitcase. Across from me atop a stout bookshelf is a pair of grimy military binoculars and a row of desert succulents. The barn that Steve and Jan built a few years ago is visible through the window. Beyond it, five horses saunter through the pasture, seeking shade. Misty is the gray mare that I rode bareback yesterday. I could feel her sturdy muscles rippling beneath me as she walked.

Our farmland on the Idaho-Washington border is a place where time exists only as the circular pattern of the sun and the amount of rain only determines how long the crops will need to dry. Neighborly greetings last no less than ten minutes and stories are divulged over and over again in a sly, lilting voice with the same glint in the teller’s eye.

This is the place of early bedtimes and early mornings, of dust billowing behind pickups, of homemade brownies, thin and buttery. Here are the tiny frogs leaping towards protection in the windrows of hay as you rake the fields in lazy circles. If you need to take refuge from the fire ants, here’s the creek, whose muddy bed is lined with broken pottery. Inside the house, Cesaria Evora croons or The Three Pickers twang out from the stereo. Dog hair forms a silky carpet on the floor and sunbeams filter through the pervasive dust.