You Dream of Paninis
You jostle in line waiting for paninis, your sister scowls, he sees, says caught you. For penance
you tumble into bed. A corner of your eye locates motion: his wife’s blue backpack, a gypsy
skirt swirling out a door. It’s Milan, he’s American, this morning full with light a sensation
before Watergate & your long drunken marriage. A stranger appears, wonders what were you thinking. He is crew-cut & stern as your father. Your sister shrugs: opportunity knocked. Her
breasts gleam from saunters among sunburned German tourists. Your wallet contains $100,
not enough for a ticket home, a fact that might concern you should you suppose there is some
place to return to and someone to forgive your indiscretion.
Piney, Dark and Deep
for my father
I've been a scaredy cat all my life.
Alive cells gone mad in your brain, you, weeks from dying,
think to warn me away from fear. Fear, a battering ram or a
summoning. It's Christmas this many years later, and today I think of
a darkly pungent night in Maine. I am three or four, happy to stand and
ride the bump between the back and front seats of our old blue Ford.
In yellow headlights a dump truck massed beneath a piney burden grinds
in chains down a bumpy, snow silenced road. Gravity says, Let one go,
and suddenly it does, a massive pine still moist in its tar, fresh from the
cut and deep, alive forest that edges dark roads where cars travel singly
and without thought, follow beams to barns and houses and yellow
circles of electric light inside. Improbable odds, unlucky split of time,
the tree, though cut, now alive, a medieval battering ram. We smell it first,
piney and deep, next feel cold, animal aliveness, great pole that shatters
windshield, pierces metal and cloth of a car roof. In darkening seconds, we hear
your cry, I can't see, I'm blind. At the hospital they pluck splinters of glass
from your skin, glittering bits shot through great coat, sweater and shirt.
Your eye another matter, familiar spectacles battered into hundreds of
sightless pieces. But I know none of this, as my sisters and I warm our limbs in
the house of strangers closest to the road. Don't eat the grapes, one of us
warns, though we are urged to. Purple exotic globes, dark and alive under
electric parlor lights spilling yellow circles onto snow and darkness outside. You
did not die then or go blind or fail us. And who can say now what courage is,
where it comes from, what face it wears turned darkly in on itself or looking
back at the world. I cannot, though you are long dead from a poisonous globe that
came alive in your brain, caused you to warn me. I understand nothing and
still want to tell you, though fear whispers don’t eat, though fear is alive,
piney, dark and deep: that night you were brave.
Alison Meyers is a poet and fiction writer, twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her creative work has been published or is forthcoming in ragazine, Connecticut Review, Fresh Water Review, Stone Canoe, and the anthologies Le Mot Juste and Gathered Light: The Poetry of Joni Mitchell’s Songs, and elsewhere. She is the executive director of Writers & Books, a literary arts center in Rochester, NY.