Prodigal, Over Easy

Linda Gregerson

Copper and ginger, the plentiful
      mass of it bound, half loosed, and
            bound again in lavish

      disregard as though such heaping up
were a thing indifferent, surfeit from
            the table of the gods, who do

            not give a thought to fairness, no,
      who throw their bounty in a single
lap. The chipped enamel-blue-on her nails.

The lashes sticky with sunlight. You would
      swear she hadn’t a thought in her head
            except for her buttermilk waffle and

      its just proportion of jam. But while
she laughs and chews, half singing
            with the lyrics on the radio, half

            shrugging out of her bathrobe in the
      kitchen warmth, she doesn’t quite
complete the last part, one of the

sleeves-as though, you’d swear, she
      couldn’t be bothered-still covers
            her arm. Which means you do not

      see the cuts. Girls of an age-
fifteen for example-still bearing
            the traces of when-they-were-

            new, of when-the-breasts-had-not-
      been-thought-of, when-the-troublesome-
cleft-was-smooth, are anchored

on a faultline, it’s a wonder they
      survive at all. This ginger-haired
            darling isn’t one of my own, if

      own is ever the way to put it, but
I’ve known her since her heart could still
            be seen at work beneath

            the fontanelles. Her skin
      was almost other-worldly, touch
so silken it seemed another kind

of sight, a subtler
      boundary than obtains for all
            the rest of us, though ordinary

      mortals bear some remnant too,
consider the loved one’s fine-
            grained inner arm. And so

            it’s there, from wrist to
      elbow, that she cuts. She takes
her scissors to that perfect page, she’s good,

she isn’t stupid, she can see that we
      who are children of plenty have no
            excuse for suffering we

      should be ashamed and so she is
and so she has produced this many-
            layered hieroglyphic, channels

            raw, half-healed, reopened
      before the healing gains momentum, she
has taken for her copy-text the very

cogs and wheels of time. And as for
      her other body
, says the plainsong
            on the morning news, the hole

      in the ozone, the fish in the sea,
you were thinking what exactly? You
            were thinking a comfortable

            breakfast would help? I think
      I thought we’d deal with that tomorrow.
Then you’ll have to think again.

Over Easy

Cloud cover like a lid on.
      Thwarted trees. And three more hours
of highway to be rid of. My darlings don’t want
            a book on tape. They want

a little indie rock, they want to melt
      the tweeters, they want
mama in the trunk so they can have some un-
            remarked-on fun.

Fine. I’ve got my window, I can contemplate
      the flatness of Ohio. I can think
about the ghastly things we’ve leached into
            the topsoil, I can marvel that the

scabrous fields will still accept the plow. Except
      some liquid thing is happening just behind
the trees, some narrow sub-
            cutaneous infusion where

the darkening earth and darker strato-
      cumulus have not yet sealed
their hold. A pooling
            fed by needle drip: pellucid, orange,

a tincture I would almost call unnatural were
      it not so plainly nature-
born. Till what had been a stricken contiguity
            of winter-wasted

saplings starts to sharpen and distill, as though
      a lens had been adjusted or a mind
had cleared. Our sorry dispersal,
            the Bishop of Africa wrote

to his flock, but the voice of a child
      recalled me. When the girls were small
we took them to an island once, the sun
            above the sea, and with

the other paying customers we’d watch it set.
      A yolk, I thought. The not-yet-
torn meniscus with its cunning corrective to
            up and down. You’ve held

one in your palm no doubt: remember the weight?
      Remember the lemony slickness we so oddly
call “the white” and how it drains
            between your fingers? Not

in chambering and wantonness the sun would swell
      nor strife and plumply flatten like
a yolk-in-hand. Would steep there in the salt-
            besotted vapors till

we must have been watching an aftereffect,
      so quickly did it vanish. Till
the whole of expectation, wrote the bishop-this
            Ohio sky, the road, my noisy

darlings-is exhausted and-
      now mandarin, madder-what was
the future-cinnabar, saffron, marigold,
            quince-becomes the past.

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