I got the results from the paternity test and an offer for a new job on the same day. The paternity test was positive; I was the father. The new job was cutting meat at Chives, a specialty grocery store in Boulder. On my lunch break I texted my twin sister Maria that I wanted to share two things with her on Skype. I told my coworker, Lance, the news after work at Hank’s, our regular bar.
Another surly October morning on Rathdangan Farm, the name of our rocky little homestead in the foothills of the Sugarloaf Range, and Mother Nature was in a nasty mood. Her swirling wind bossed the sycamore leaves around the farmyard, and wisps of her clammy fog still clung to the steep mountain peak in the distance. My mother—we called her Mammy— was a whirlwind of work, as usual: milking cows, feeding calves and pigs, washing clothes, holding it all together.
My wife and I are into season 3 of Victoria, the Masterpiece Theatre series that seems as long as the queen’s monarchial reign. It’s a slow-moving narrative in which a tea cup is picked up, put down. Then, for dramatic tension, the camera pans to a terrier that, on cue, lifts a hind leg to squirt on the carpet—a barbarous display in the palace household.
Winnie’s 350-square foot studio that she called home resembled a submarine, she liked to say to strangers, to offer them a quick image of what it was like to live in small spaces. A submarine was dark and hollow, challenged by gravity. Her apartment was on the top floor of a walk-up tenement building in downtown Manhattan, and got afternoon light. But at night she could squint and conjure the resemblance. Not that she’d ever set foot inside of a submarine.
You turn off the lights. You shut and lock the doors. If there are windows, you herd your students to a corner where they can’t be seen from the windows. You tell them it’s important they stay still. You tell them it’s important they stay silent. You use the tone of voice you reserve for only the most serious things. The tone of voice you once used with your own children when you told them never to shoot up. You only have one life, you once said, don’t throw it away.
Human beings ought to emulate the birds. / Every millisecond on TV is a birdbrained lie. / And I love TV very much so I can say it. / A soothing mixture, pain and plenty.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it, / said a t-shirt my mother gave me, / but what did I have? / Tiny batteries in my breasts, / which hummed along, expectant. / I did and didn’t want to grow up
My subject, myself, my object, I / too have spent my whole life / hungry. Any human contact / brings news of me to me.
Red lake of salt, crumbling edge of pus, far border of tender flesh / I tread around the bloody eye, daring the old impulse to jump / Saturday morning, the wound spills
The achingly red Roma tomatoes / fill the bleached porcelain sink / like the bulbous detritus of summer. / The remnants of seed and skin / collide and float broken and hollow.
Past the coffee table, its treacherous / corners; around the hushed ottoman; / pause in front of the flickering flat screen / as if I’d stepped right out of it. My family gapes.
A quiet to these fields we called our place, / could almost hear the springs refeeding ponds, / fracked and gone with the deer and fox and grouse / thanks to the drilling’s thunder in the ground.
Want to Submit Your Work?