By Brent Fisk
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.
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
just to break your heart.