from The Evanescence of Harry Wait
Torches of fire cast wind-shaped shadows out of brick. A small girl watches a house on fire and it’s night-time. Her mother holds one of her siblings by the hand. It is her only sibling. They stare at flames. Her dog sits next to her. She wraps child-fists around the dog’s ears, holds on. They stand by azalea bushes without flowers. They are not in season. It is cold outside, without flowers. Inside, still inside, there is an Englishwoman. She is soft in a housedress. There are her whale-arms, pale blue against pure white walls. She is straightening; when things are in order, she will leave. She eyes the spilled, cracked Coleman lantern, old, for camping trips, the source of the girl’s flame shadows. She plugs in the very frayed end of a vacuum cleaner cord, pushes, pulls it slowly in and out of the flames, sucking ashes as they fall, sucking them away from being before they are created. The walls turn away from being hot and white. The walls aren’t. Not anymore. She vacuums, keeps the dust of them far from the girl and the dog who can’t hear the gnashing and long low wail of the dying house.
Rabbits are entirely silent until their last moments, in which they scream. We have heard many screaming rabbits here in Colby. How do they know to scream if they have not (and they haven’t) ever made any sort of sound, save the shuffling of their large feet through leaves, grasses, and wheat? And chewing sounds, of course. It is my theory that the foxes that catch the rabbits are really the ones screaming. The rabbits, in fact, never do make any sort of noise. The foxes are so terrified of their own actions that they scream as they act.
I hope that no one has moved into my old room.
near white woman basin, kansas
I am writing again because I can’t stop thinking of the two skulls that I saw on the trail in Evergreen. This was last week. There was one hanging from a tree, and from this, long vertebrae. I didn’t count them, but I did look at all of the string-like things hanging from the bones. It’s as if the flesh didn’t want to separate – or, really, that the bones didn’t want to lose flesh. The next skull had fewer vertebrae, and it was lying on the ground and decaying further rather than bleaching in the sun. No white things, as if it had been sick for a long time and wanted to die. I speculate. It is possible that these animals didn’t care one way or the other. I saw a herd of live deer about twenty minutes after seeing the skulls. There were skittish and curious all at once.
In the distance, thousands of discarded antlers drift over shifts of sand. I can see a parched man trying to hitch up his pants, but his britches are rent. I have all of these visions of burning.
The terrain here: rock squandered, walls of fire. It is a splinter-cold space.
Here in the middle of the desert, she is gouging the centers from cacti (genus: Echinofossulocactus). It is a sweet sorrow to watch her, covered in the slippery insides of the plants. Sometimes she comes away with spines stuck into her skin (I have saved these to use as fishhooks), but most often she comes away clean. I have tried to restrain her. She would, unrestrained, cut open prickly-pear, suck out marrow for food (she will eat little else), not knowing which cacti hold all of that water underground, hoarding it. And she is destroying centuries-old hoards. Her behavior reminds me of college dissection class. We pulled eight miles of veins out of an old man’s hand. This is why I left. No way to wash it down.
Halogen lights set fire to insects.
I should steal your stories, stretch them taut, they will break in driving rain.
There is a lightening storm in the West. There is a spot of blood on your forehead where you swat mosquitoes.
The backs of pickup trucks, out here, are clattering loudly. In the back of one of them, there is a boy with very fat cheeks.
The dark is so slender.
Up ahead of us, there is a vehicle with a tv inside. A black woman is driving, and she has two black children in the back seat. In the shotgun seat, there is an old old white man with drooping eyes. He has oxygen tubes in his nostrils. When they flare, it is nothing like a horse.
The boy is falling asleep in the pickup truck bed. He smiles in his sleep.
Ginger Knowlton lives north of Boulder, Colorado. Recent work has appeared in Double Room, 5_trope, and The Evansville Review. More work is forthcoming in Poetry Midwest. She has received awards from the Academy of American Poets and Rocky Mountain Women's Institute. A few of her paintings are held in private collections across the country. She shares an art studio with two potters on an old farm outside Longmont, Colorado, where she is rearranging a prose poem sequence into a novel/novella called _The Evanescence of Harry Wait_.