May 13, 2009 / Creative Writing
I watched Rebel Without a Cause on TV late one college night when I learned …
September 21, 2011
The fish she bears in the basket on her head
lost their gleam between boat and market, lost it
the moment they had nothing to breathe but air.
Stunned pewter, they sway toward a mound of ice
built for them—a mausoleum that will vanish
at the end of day, when their migratory journey
resumes within bodies that swim in sweaty beds
toward a stillness called sleep. But for now
they fend off the sun’s daily query—
Are you hungry?—to the woman who mounts
a stairway of cobble where each step is lit
by sunrise. She keeps balance. Her imagining
does not extend to airplanes or electricity.
She does not believe all that dies dies blind.
In the hospital cafeteria they hand me
an empty plate. Yes. Earned; bargained for: wry
inheritance. Disposable infinity
you’d load with rice and gravy, green peas and turkey
each night the week before you sank through coma. Maybe
you dine out on memory now, but I’m still hungry
and what I lack is the thanks you made me
take in, bowed down, at the end of any given day.
On such plates we ate barbecue Saturday;
in pleated paper shot-cups we drank Jesus Sunday.
Am I Methodist still when you die on a Thursday
and I show up for what they cooked you last Friday
in this fluorescent barn of bad food and grief? Say
grace, you ordered. I bow over the steam tray.
Robert Hill Long
Robert Hill Long is the author of five books, most recently The Kilim Dreaming, a collection of three long narrative sequences and one elegiac sequence. He lives in western Oregon.