Out buying bread with the boy before his mother wakes.
The woman at the register is kind to warn it is hot.
My hands full, I’m careful not to press
the loaf against his thigh.
Back on the street, he’s in charge of counting yellow cars.
I’m in charge of the keys I drop.
Before returning home, we stop for five dollars
worth of flowers. His mother, up and waiting,
sends me a picture of a grey kingbird.
Maybe I’m curious about birds now,
I mentioned the night prior, then forgot.
And so, now, I really am curious about
birds’ sudden relevance in our life.
I look up at the power lines, hoping to spot one,
and drop my keys again. Before walking in, he asks
the name of the flower, I answer
the bird’s name by mistake. The house feels,
I don’t know, ‘feathered’ the rest of the day.
Guillermo Rebollo Gil (San Juan, 1979) is a poet and sociologist. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Fence, Mandorla, The Acentos Review , Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, FreezeRay and Caribbean Writer. His book-length essay Writing Puerto Rico: Our Decolonial Moment (2018), a careful consideration of the potentialities of radical thought and action in contemporary Puerto Rico, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in their New Caribbean Studies Series. He belongs to/with Lucas Imar and Ariadna Michelle. Happily so.
At first, it was wisps of hair in the spaghetti, one on my toast, some on the couch. When Mom’s hair fell out in clumps, I helped shave her head, smooth and shiny. I shook the sheet out under a tree, hoping birds would use the strands in their nests. Without hair, Mom’s eyes were huge and I understood the color emerald and why it’s a gemstone.
Two weeks later, I listened to Dad packing, his footsteps on the porch, three loads up and down. I watched the stripe of light under my bedroom door. When I saw Dad’s feet, I rolled over and shut my eyes. He tip toed in and kissed me on the cheek. Thud of the trunk, crunch of tires on gravel, and he was gone. I wrote the date in my notebook of things I need to remember: the week of orange butterflies sailing all over town, the night they found Maureen Chatham’s body in the storm drain, Jess Pickett’s kiss.
Senior year of high school, I started another notebook, things I’ll need to know: the phone number for Mom’s hospice, what to do after her funeral, after the long sad eulogy, the frozen casseroles. When nothing’s left but a box of ashes on the dining table. It’s what’s left over that worries me: an old fluffy robe hanging on a hook. Library books and stacks of mail. Her knitting. All those papers stuffed in blue folders in the desk drawer. The invitations to my graduation. What will I do with the empty bowls and knives and forks, Mom’s driver’s license, her hairbrush.
Marcus jumped. And the Wilcox twins. Even the new girl from Delaware. And they were in the water yelling up at us, me and Drew still on the balcony. The pool, a tiny turquoise rectangle in the cement. My insides swirled. Like the time the elevator skipped a floor at the doctor’s office. Like the time Drew and I kissed—practice for high school, we said.
I dared him to jump. “Go on, Drew, don’t be a baby.”
His head bounced on the concrete edge before he hit the water. He went down and didn’t come up. The boys pulled him out of the pool and I called 911. “How long was he under?” the paramedics asked. Long enough for me to say “Please, God, no” what felt like a hundred times.
And now there’s a ventilator. I hear it when I get off the elevator and walk towards Drew’s hospital room. Drew’s in a therapeutic coma waiting for his brain to heal.
I sit with him, plodding my way through the summer reading list: Iliad, Odyssey, Salinger’s Nine Stories. The metal edge of the bed is cold, like a screwdriver. Drew smells like a dentist’s glove. I wonder if we’ll kiss when he wakes up. What will happen if I don’t want to. Mom drives me to see a counselor every Thursday, a tiny boring woman who tells me that it’s not my fault unless I pushed him.
At night, I stare at the dark square of Drew’s bedroom window next door. I think about opening it wide and jumping out. I think about pushing him up and down the new wheelchair ramp on his front porch. Pushing him to therapy, Algebra, Honors English. Pushing him the rest of my life.
Victoria Melekian lives in Carlsbad, California. Her poems and stories have been published in Monkeybicycle, Mudfish, Literary Orphans, Atlanta Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Word Riot, and other anthologies. She was a runner-up in the 2018 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Award, a runner-up in the Women on Writing Summer 2019 Flash Fiction Contest, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. For more, visit http://victoriamelekian.com.
Shadows cross over
my head, then all of ours.
The bower dots the edge
of a spinning sky. How
much more tumbles on
before us: citrus pink, a fresh
breasted blue, and lavender
falls down like powder.
A drizzle begins,
then handfuls held
and dropped. Under
the eaves I slick
rain from me;
pollen bursts and flies.
Sandra Marchetti is the author of Confluence, a full-length collection of poetry from Sundress Publications (2015) and four chapbooks of poetry and lyric essays. Her poetry appears in Ecotone, Blackbird, Poet Lore, Southwest Review, Subtropics, and elsewhere. Essays can be found in Pleiades, Mid-American Review, Barrelhouse, and other venues. She edits poetry for River Styx Magazine and is currently the Coordinator of Tutoring Services at College of DuPage in the Chicagoland area.