We are driving through downtown Columbus, away from the Greyhound station. I spent fifteen hours on a bus traveling from New York City to visit for Christmas, a holiday, my mother reminds me, that is not even about Jesus anymore. This is a thought she has reiterated over the years, yet it never prevented her from partaking in the holiday during my lifetime. The absence of a decorative tree and gifts reflected a lack of money, not a rejection of the commodification of religion.
The first empty ring echoed all over the room. Since we had left the island, the phone-bridge had been an effective method to recover some of the sounds that, in their absence, made our exiled evenings emptier. But when they failed to answer, uncertainty and impotence took control. It was still early there. Only the low-pitch whistle of the still-weak wind caressing the tops of the palm trees, that ambiguous premonition that could sway either way. This time it would be real. But not yet.
At the meal with the earnest centurion and the woman full of pain, he wanted to say the lamb was delicious. It surprised him to love it as much as he did the blinking gaze of the newly sighted, but to say so didn’t suit the narrative that was running through his fingers like water.
The bed they’d given him for the lonely night was more than adequate for a man. Besides, he was now nearly sentimental about the roughness of linen and the funk of straw.
The three of them play cards in the dining room. This is the story. Nothing else. Collectively, they’re almost three hundred years old. They drink juice and laugh. Now one of them turns on a small radio, which plays “Autumn Leaves.”
Late night howling down a dark dirt road Headlights
killed and so the world gone black but for the two blunts
lit illuminating Jojo’s fake gold grin One girl each screaming
from the backseat we raced the red moon rawdogged
They started building right away, as soon as it was safe to go outside.
“I can feel them moving!” Cristina squealed, standing knee-deep in leaves.
“Their teeth tickle!” laughed Zoe.
Something had caught their attention as they searched for pebbles and twigs. They crouched amid the soggy storm debris, then sprang up, kittenlike, uncombed curls against the gray sky, chattering and unaware of my presence. But as soon as they saw me approaching they stopped and exchanged looks. Cristina bit her bottom lip and smiled, a small and well-calculated gesture of contrition designed to deflate a scolding, but Zoe, the eldest, fixed her eyes on me, and her body tensed. She seemed ready to run, like a surprised wild thing.
What have you, in such indignation, become. Dusty—
a vaulted interior echoing with air, envy, blood.
Vanity’s steady hum. Each wrong done to you
a gate that opens forever into storm. Farewell to cobwebs
swept with water-lights. Farewell to children who smile off
into the distance.