displayed in a grid of squares she is saturated, oblique, a shape bearing no relationship to the smell of a ham sandwich or the night her uncles beat the government man bloody. i could recite her stories, pour mop-water into a creek, but instead she drags a blanket to the dirt and unravels it. the most memorable colors thrive without effort: morning-glory fields, stubborn phlox. symbolism, too, is mere surface— when you turn around, i am no longer there.
angled, she is half caught, half startled, like a bird we didn’t draw setting off in haste. a trailing thread of nostalgia and performance, a white dress rehearsed, habitual. in the days of tetanus, a cut on the hand spelled everything. her nights rode an acceleration of the mind: if they could see into her yard, she could see their ghostshirted arms stitched in window light. reflection, and correspondence.
to filter and recite, this wash of anemones between us, this swerving into focus. she had never seen the sea, alive to its edges, a frame in the most intoxicating sense. family was something you did to get along. sudden flares of memory, milkweed. my aunt spending the week upstairs, wrapping herself in cloth.
back when a figure half in, half out of the water was considered unlucky, my grandmother’s mother opens her paints and tinges the photographs pink. three slap-cheeked girls, eyes like holes in paper. iteration. if she rolled out biscuits every morning, wrapped them in a towel and watched him through the door, when does a memory begin to curl along its edges? her task to carry warm water in a cup. a conflagration of sheets.
on the back of the photograph her handwriting fades, tendrils and perforation. he carries a tree through the woods; she buries his shirt in railroad cinders. the threat of fire becomes a state of mind: we will sew our own blankets, our own white dress trailing. their path was to memorize what they stumbled upon, a vine here, a bed frame there. my own memories naturalized and spreading, daffodils along a forest floor.
Laura Walker is the author of story (Apogee Press, 2016), Follow–Haswed (Apogee Press, 2012), bird book (Shearsman Books, 2011), rimertown/ an atlas (UC Press, 2008), and swarm lure (Battery Press, 2004), and the chapbook bird book (Albion Books, 2010). She grew up in rural North Carolina and now lives in Berkeley, California, where she teaches creative writing and battles the varroa mite. More information is available at laura-walker.com.
Featured Photo Credit: Morgaine Baumann