Posts tagged "sensory_detail"

Transubstantiate

They kept them on their dressers, hidden beneath the edge of a doily or in a trinket box.  Aunt Leona’s was the first I saw, before bed one weekend when I was spending the night.  We were listening to old hymns on AM radio, what a friend we have in Jesus and the torments of...

Things That Appear Ugly Or Troubling But Upon Closer Inspection Are Beautiful

(after Sei Shonagon) A river in winter with ice floes jammed violently against one another; you can see dark water in between the white and gray floes, sparkling in the sunshine. Abandoned barns, their huge roofs sagging like the backs of tired horses. The slick, black body of a baby goat, stillborn, lying in the...

There Was a Moment to Turn Back

I wait before I enter. Pausing briefly at the door, I am suspended in this space, between the coming and the going. The yellowed linoleum is tacky against the bottom of my feet, and the fluorescent bulb in the ceiling illuminates the white of the bare walls so they tint blue. I stand in the...

Evelyn

Her name is Evelyn. She’s lived in her house since 1960. She was born in 1915 or 1916, near the Nooksack River, which still floods its banks. These are the facts. This is the mystery: a 91-year-old woman and me. She can’t hear me, but I talk with my hands. Evelyn’s surname is also a...

Comfort Food

I woo Jeanne’s appetite with her favorite Southern foods. Grits, banana pudding, Miracle Whip, and bologna loaf on white bread. French dressing over cottage cheese. Sausage gravy over biscuits: pallid sauce so thick with grease that the leftovers will congeal, gray and lumpy. Tomorrow I will reheat them to mash over her toast. When she...

The Back Stroke

I started upright, feet planted in the lake’s silt, bending my knees and inclining forward, but never losing touch with where I stood. Gradually I let go of the bottom and put my head in the water, face down, eyes closed, legs splayed out behind me like a flesh-colored overcoat—like a drowned person whose body...

Closing Time

Pedro the dishwasher told me about how his sister died. We were drinking gin at a table by the window. He dried his hands off with a towel, ran his fingers through his black hair and described the way the hot water was still running when he found her hanging from a cord in the...

May Showers

Like this, the man says, smoothing a dollop of salve across his wife’s shoulder blades, over the rashes blooming there like teacup roses. With two fingers, he works the cream in circular motions down her rib cage, along the row of black stitches lining the curve of her spine.  Look here, he says, and here....

This Is Not To Say

So many feelings fit between two heartbeats So many objects can be held in our two hands Don’t be surprised we can’t describe the world And just address things tenderly by name. -Zbigniew Herbert This was supposed to be about the dirt that flies up in puffs between bare feet when the bees are buzzing...

The Potato Harvest

This is the morning that summer ends. In one hard frost our garden has become an abandoned battlefield, the last vestiges of the living lay stiff and frozen, black wilted zucchini leaves like limp umbrellas stand as pathetic monuments, tattered flags, over what was, only yesterday, a vegetable garden. Potatoes love one heavy frost. It...

In Case of Emergency

In her left hand she holds the vase he made her, heavy and cool.  His initials are carved in the bottom, deep ridges made of the familiar initials in the painfully recognizable handwriting.  They were there before he proposed, and they still endure even after he dumped her.  There’s a hammer in her other hand,...

Death of a Citizen Abroad

When a citizen dies abroad, their body is sent home in the cargo-hold of a commercial jetliner along with suitcases stuffed with beachwear, woodcarvings from the tourist stalls, and souvenir bottle-openers shaped like elephants. A coffin is just another piece of baggage. At the airport, a Consular Affairs Officer, Mr. R—, fills out the customs...

Duck, North Carolina

Once, walking, I found on the sand not a butterflied clam but a small tooth. We have been coming here so long that we can point out where the road used to end, though we differ: some say the fish hut, others the rental shack. Pretty soon there will be a baby, eating great fistfuls...

Future Ex Buys Pajamas

We begin our descent somewhere over Normandy when I read in Let’s Go! France that the Eiffel Tower is this beacon for suicide. Host to twelve successful attempts every year. Katja tells me the jumpers tend not to be locals. She says no Parisian would be caught dead anywhere near the Eiffel Tower, and by the...

To All Those Who Say Write What You Know

I will just say this. I know a river or two, the easy ones—the Thames, the Danube and Seine—quick to give their beauty to everyone who nears their banks. I know others who keep more to themselves—the Hudson and Snake, the Elwha—content to take and carry your secrets with their own, they leave you for...

I Cannot Explain My Fear

Fear of bears, fear of ladders, fear of freezing. Once, in the Sonoran Desert, I woke with ice on my sleeping bag. Fear of a cancerous thyroid; fear of eating poisonous fish from Japan; fear of sharks, overly large seals and sea lice, too. Fear that my glasses are radioactive because the first time I...

Party for Flor Pequeña

The mothers sit in plastic lawn chairs clinking together brown bottles of beer with limes squeezed into the tops, periodically pulling light green pieces of pulp from their lips. One of them turns on the radio that is lying in the grass next to a stack of magazines and a clay ashtray. The mothers start...

Across the Street and a World Apart

She sauntered down the street mid-morning in a navy blue silk bathrobe, her satin mules clicking the sidewalk with two-inch kitten heels. Her right hand clasped a leather leash, her tuxedo-clad Boston terrier named Boots straining at the other end, his nose pushed in, self-confident and spoiled. The same hand that grasped the leash held...