Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I wasn't able to use all of the words, so I've disqualified myself from the contest. I did want to post what the challenge helped me produce, though. Thanks, Didi!



Mother shrank while everyone else slept. Eventually, she was gone. Like
a dream you try your best to remember but can’t. Dad tried to make
everything work after that: He clamped pliers to the dial of the washing
machine, set the sofa on upturned skillets for legs. But you can’t fix
everything, he’d say. The TV’s picture still rolled like movie credits and
the dog still had to wait. He’d finally raise his head when our forks
stopped scraping their plates. He’d gnaw at a ham bone all night, picked
clean of the meat.


She made me feel better than myself when I was with her. She knew things.
On picnics, she’d read a book listing the genus and species of mushrooms
and trees: lepista nuda, she’d say. Populus tremula, (an aspen, I later found
out). It made me think about our future together. About having kids. What
she’d name our first: Seymour or Mortimer? Kosumi (which meant fishes for
salmon with spear)? Every now and again, she’d try teaching me words in
Spanish. Bonito (which made me think of burrito), and Cienfuegos, which
meant something dependent on whether or not you spaced the n and f. Being
out in the open made me remember how distance changes things. How a city
in Cuba suddenly becomes a hundred flames within the span of two letters.


Tonight, at Caye Coco, she orders an entrĂ©e whose name I can’t pronounce
(black beans and tamales for me). I flag the waitress for a second basket of
chips before we finish the first. With every round of Margaritas, I try to stop
smoothing my napkin. But she knows things. Facts. How aspen leaves tremble
in the breeze because the leaf-stalk flattens. How the leaves have wavy edges
and teeth on each side. But hypothesis is a very different thing. I wonder how
we’ll handle uncertainty, no back of the book for answers. I wonder what she
knows of possibility. Of having to wait until everyone’s eaten to be served.


Jill said...

i liked this poem. esp number 3. good flow.

nate said...

Thanks, Jill! I appreciate your reading and commenting on this piece.