Posted on August 19th, 2013
The fish is not large enough. It is black and nearly round, and then other colors when it lands, spines out, in my palm, and we have killed it anyway. It drifts cockeyed beneath the cement that makes up this small bridge. The road is dusty. I lie down on my stomach, and stretch a still pale arm, a burning back, down to catch the body as it makes its way into the tunnel. It slips against my fingers. Don’t tell anyone, you say, laughing, and I say that I won’t, only now, I have. The beer smell won’t leave my water bottle for a month. The sunburn goes, after two days. The bruised plum that I eat in the hot car on the way home leaks juice down my chin. I should, I think, be better at killing something than this.
When I leave the theater, it is dark, and it has rained. My bike seat is wet. I climb the hill back to the room I have for the summer. It is as hot as breath, under the eaves, and still. I eat a pound of dark, ripe, heavy cherries that leave all of my fingers blood red. Yesterday morning, I found a note on my dresser, propped up against a bar of orange soap. The corner had a bite taken out of it, the clean marks of teeth. “Dear self: You wondered if this tasted like it smelled. Guess what. It does.”
The conversation that we are having is only one version of it, and in the other, I say better, truer, more vulnerable things. In this one, I talk about bands, and stone fruit, and wonder why William Carlos Williams already figured out how to say everything with plums, and I have no words left. I love you is a pit that catches in my throat.
A dirt plume rises from the unmarked road. The farmer’s son, shotgun on the seat, truck wincing over the earth. What are you doing here, he asks, of my basket, of my bonnet, of my ankle length dress. The fish are fat and complacent underneath the water. Nothing, I say. Nothing at all. Because I am ten years old. Go home, is the prescription. I look towards the hazy tree line, the cows, pushing their foreheads against the grass, against the fence. I can only guess at the place he means, picking up the basket, shuffling the silver bodies back into the pond. Coiling the line into my palm, slick and sure. It’s not the prairie, and my hair is short. I don’t have the words that Laura would say. I have ‘okay’ and ‘sorry’ and ‘I’ll do that’, sticking in my teeth.
When Gary Snyder wants me to see ah, the lovers, in the mouth of bread, some yeast driven high Sierra tumbling, kissing, I say no. I couldn’t find this word, before. I say its solid syllable to the dark, stacking one letter upon the other. I practice it, alone, walking in the woods. Its companion, yes, is a country I cannot name.
The stars fall. This rock that I’m sitting on has gone cold. When I read the line ‘what we’ve had and had to lose, to be what we are/what continues without us/and somehow, because’, I have to close my eyes. Slowly, behind each lid, one at a time: Fish. Cherries. Plums.