there’s a way the crash of a boisterous river scoring the air above itself
when the trail bends into a grove of trees and the air hangs blank and clean
for a second for three seconds five total-nothing
roaring world suddenly still as still as what?
space that feels like a living animal beating-blood breathing surrounded with its own beingness then not anymore
but where? how?
so much noise up-ended (over there by the alders)
I left my wallet on the back bumper of the Jetta after buying beer at a border store where it stayed over 200 miles of sketchy northern highway miles burgundy leather lump intact. My favorite Aimee Bender story describes an orphan who finds lost objects by concentrating on the tug of memory awake in everything. My friends say of course you like that one, because in the story trees remember where they were born and the lost boy is returned home unharmed. Of course. I used to dream that if I got too tired to drive a big god would reach into the car and carry me the rest of the way like a party- weary toddler. I wore my ex-husband’s hat for years, a man’s brimmed fedora, large on me, so that maybe for a while my cigarette-smoking alter-ego could think the same thoughts. We would wait out the thunderstorms together in our bungalow’s screened porch high above the Mississippi. My father sometimes remembers from his assisted living facility in Chicago his sisters are dead and the farm is long sold. But I tell him not to fret. Those things are not where we can find them, though we listen after them hard when they flash back up. We lost Mom, we lost Maggie, too much, and kitchens, rings, gorgeous songs. What happens to the bargain we make with each other—you stay alive while I am alive. If I am missing, please come find me. By accident once I found myself down a wild grassed-over field-side road in Wisconsin with no one around and the wind whispering in collusion. I can see that secret moment more clearly than any face, as if that place might have offered me a choice I lost, like a garment or a life.
hold her waist so her head can hang into the mouth of the well backward down in the cool exhalation of stone-water
her mother’s hand mirror tipped behind reflects the pattern a sunlight bargello on the oily surface the image of a man
like a black smudge in the snow she sees him exactly black crow shot cloudward above the frozen un-named path
Katharine Whitcomb is the author of four collections of poems: The Daughter’s Almanac(chosen by Patricia Smith as winner of the 2014 Backwaters Prize), Lamp of Letters (winner of the 2009 Floating Bridge Chapbook Award),Saints of South Dakota & Other Poems (chosen by Lucia Perillo as winner of the 2000 Bluestem Award), and Hosannas (Parallel Press, 1999). She is a Distinguished Professor of English at Central Washington University and lives in Ellensburg, Washington.
Header photo of trail and grass by Pitsch, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Katharine Whitcomb by Rosanne Olson.