Prognostication

By Brent Fisk

 

I

The first time I married I was eight.

I thought my grandmother would forbid it,

but she let the ceremony play out beneath an apple tree.

A rooster was my best man, but he flew

into a locust tree and would not come down when called.

We said our vows in the heat of the orchard,

small fruit, green and sour, and spun every wedded word

we pulled from the airwaves, a chaos of TV love.

 

She borrowed her father’s white

dress shirt for a gown. Her brother Ronnie

spoke in tongues, wet himself

and cried when we were done.

 

After the ceremony we lay in the shade

and talked about the fuzz of foxtails and babies that would come.

I yelled their names into the cistern’s maw,

noon light reduced to a circle that wobbled in the dark.

 

A strange mania seized the meadow,

redwings raving, mockingbirds chasing the rag-tailed crows.

I found a quarter shining in the dust

and pocketed it as my own, the first secret I kept from her.

The summer rumbled down the mountain

like a distant lumber truck.

 

She put a tiger lily behind one ear

and sang all the hymns I’d never learned.

I pinged along behind her like a wasp.

I never kissed more than a finger.

The next day she locked herself in her room.

 

I stripped the leaves from a forsythia bush,

and listened to her father thunder. My grandmother

sipped tea behind the screen door,

let the old tom out to mouse.

A corn snake twined up with a garden hose.

She sank her ice with a painted nail, smiled, and said,

I guess this means we aren’t quite rid of you.

 

 

II

At twelve, you didn’t see yourself

loving a woman with small nipples

who comes in from taking out the trash

with smoke on her breath. A future

hidden from you in the same way a girl

with a broken tooth smiles

but covers her mouth with her hand.

 

At twelve, you are thinking

on a smaller scale, of the lines

that crosshatch an open palm,

and a kiss is still a pursed, stiff-lipped thing,

hard as an unripe peach. The woman

with the chaos of poodles, the one

who wears the yard-sale shoes—she still waits

whole summers

just to break your heart.