But what was on my husband’s mind that long night I lay in the next
room, unaware we would not speak again?
Before the Galveston hurricane, we braced on the rain-whipped strip
of beach, squinting at leaden clouds for some pattern, some hint of spiral.
At twelve, forgotten, he struggled beneath the Tennessee
River, pinned upside-down, his mother oblivious, chatting on the sandbar.
A life in an instant. A moment expanding like oil
on water into an irrevocable stain.
He kicked free. Climbed out, coughing. Told no one. And took the lesson
into himself like a rusty nail to the foot: secret wound, slow poison.
His father entered the kitchen, waving his swollen cock at his mother,
frying eggs in lard: You want any of this? We stared at our plates.
You can’t see it because you’re in it. What’s needed
is perspective. The GPS says here, and now, here. But where is next?
For twenty years a phrase—climbing dim stairs—would come unbidden
to my mind. I never knew what to make of it.
I can’t sleep in this house, I hissed. I think that man might shoot us
in our bed. So we rented a cabin, didn’t tell them where.
Yet his uncanny vision. As his mother died two hundred miles away,
he stared at the farmers market peach crates emblazoned Hazel, Hazel, Hazel.
I went to work. I came home late. Even as I climbed the stairs,
I knew. And then I saw. And will never unsee him there.
RON MOHRING is the author of Survivable World (Word Works), winner of the Washington Prize, and four chapbooks, including The David Museum (New Michigan Press) and Amateur Grief (Frank O’Hara Prize). He is the unstoppable force behind Seven Kitchens Press.