Clarissa Jones

And All of This Happened; More or Less

I

A fish stuck fast in a river frozen,

ice thick enough to hold: 

a gaggle of snowmobiles,

a flock of icefishers,

and,

a father and daughter,

hand in hand,

bundled in stiff layers;

staring at the orange-white-speckled fish,

stuck fast in the ice,

flash-frozen in its last living movements

when it swam,

unaware,

in its cold-water home;

that those last swim-strokes should be immortalized in temporary mausoleum.

II

A half mile stretch of two-lane highway on the way to the high school,

smeared with the rusty stained blood

of  a coyote,

coming to town for the winter,

coming in from the cold,

that got caught underneath an eighteen-wheeler,

dragged to its death,

and thrown in a ditch

on the side of the road,

staining the snow copper-brown.

All those passing by,

staring out of the windows of their mothers' cars,

bearing silent witness to the last evidence of a lean life lived.

III

My brother and I,

running off the trail at a park,

a new one,

unseen lands set aside and opened for public use,

and finding a pile of bones like dusty ivory,

long picked clean.

We are allowed to take one home, each,

away off the land that claimed them,

away from their sister-bones.

I take a jawbone,

with it’s flat herbivore teeth;

my brother a femur,

long as his arm. 

Much later,

when it is time to give up our treasures,

we learn they had belonged to a cow in the fields turned forest,

before they had belonged to us.

 

IV

A secret world behind the neighborhood,

a path behind the guard-rail,

you take your bike halfway,

but park it when the path turns from stone to mud.

Walk over the carefully placed boards in the flooded spots.

Walk on the old refrigerator door,

not the abandoned mattress,

it gets soggy in the spring.

Take a right at the lightning-scarred tree,

and there it is:

a new world all your own,

strange stone walls 

crumbling down,

no reason for their being there,

no way of their being there, 

no roads in or out for the building of them;

but they are there,

and you are there;

in this world none of the adults have found;

the little paradise you keep hidden,

the trees your cathedral-canopy,

the creek your solace and your song.

 

V

When the kittens got caught in the engine;

we were not supposed to to look.

We were meant to sit in the back of the van;

eyes covered. 

But I looked. 

I watched my father pull the little orange body,

broken and stained with 

what I hoped was oil, what I feared was blood;

watched him take it in the back of the house,

hoping he buried it

but certain its destiny lay with the rest of the contents of the trash can.

When he asked me what I saw.

I lied.

told him nothing.

But when,

hours later, 

well underway on the island ferry,

he pulled out another cat,

one he had missed,

alive, unharmed, and angry,

a cold stone sat in my stomach.

Our fellow passengers found it a miracle. 

VI

My sister and I;

at the beach,

clambering over the monstrous driftwood;

an entire bone-white tree,

thrown from the depths of the lake by the storm-waters.

We hoisted our bodies up onto it like a platform;

gripping the smooth worn wood with our toes,

to the end that hung out over the deep waters.

We walked out on the soft white corpse of this once-grand giant,

eyes stinging with sun and sand,

joined hands,

and jumped off,

hanging in the air for a moment of eternity;

hand in hand,

between death and cool water.

We swam back to shore,

to climb up again,

and start the game anew.

THE COURTSHIP OF WINDS

© 2015 by William Ray