I have a litany of names for the color
of your hair at all hours of sunshine,
but you like “cherry-sweet” the best. One
evening in your hometown,
you had me parallel park your car
because the curb had you in checkmate,
and when I got into the driver’s side of
your old Corolla (Shelle, you call her),
I jammed my knees on the dash and
nearly knocked the wind out of myself
on the steering wheel. You’re so
short. You insisted I’m so tall.
Still, we found a way to hold each other
in an orange-lit parking lot, humid,
sundresses, clinging. I hooked my neck
over your shoulder and we danced
standing still. I opened your cherry soda—
Cheerwine, twist-off glass bottle—
we don’t have that up North. I called it
pop and you snorted. We drank our drinks,
my pop, your soda, in that parking lot and
laughed out the windows. It was late, then.
You drove me home the long way,
took me through a narrow tunnel
made of trees and I trusted you, though
it was foggy and dark and you drove fast
and it was probably a private drive.
You took me past smoky sunset mountains,
past a civil war house and told me about the
bullets in the yard and the metal-detector men,
and about your mom’s old place just down
the road a ways, brown brick, told me what
a barn swing was, and I couldn’t believe
all this was one summer night. You
dropped me off and I wanted to cry, I
think. Instead I smiled and I meant
every tooth of it.
OBJECT PERMANENCE 1
NATALIE SIEDEI try to remember the last time I slept
on a cot. Nurse’s office, paper pillow case,
bucket just in case, but I only had a fever
with chills that couldn’t be smothered under
a clinically-knit blanket like this one I have
now. My numbered possessions (soggy shoes,
toothbrush and paste, two photo albums,
my mother’s locket) are tucked under a cot
that isn’t mine, under lights that are too harsh
to fit the word ‘home.’ I try to remember
what my childhood home smelled like—
laundry day, winter morning, kitty litter?
I want to go home. I try to remember how
to fill this space, fill my adult body. I try to
imagine, sitting now, how tall I might be if
I stood. Could I see over the heads of
all these people shuffled together? Probably
not. It doesn’t feel right. I try to remember the
gripes I had with my neighbors, the real ones.
I can’t. I try to remind myself that I have been
alive half a century now, that I am married. He’s
just in the other room washing up or outside
smoking one of his soggy last Marlboros. I try
to remember that my children are adults
themselves, safe and dry across state lines.
I count my things without touching them.
I have my Red Cross blanket. My shoes smell
like rot. My new neighbors will sleep on their cots
down the row, our elbows brushing all night
without the energy for whispered apologies, and we
will pretend that we hadn’t heard each other
mourning when we rise tomorrow.
1 After a photo by J. Raedle of the inside of G.R. Brown Convention Center which was used as a shelter in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. (via Getty Images)