Another Place of Rocking
In summer, the island perpetually hissed its salt red breath. It was wild, kept you up at night. But one morning you looked up and things were simpler, vaguer, leaves matted orange, yellow, brown. A canopy of damp, supple hands. Nothing was absolute anymore. Parents were innocuous, uncertain, forgetful of their fiery passions, sated, almost in love. Then the leaves began to fall.
Between where we lived and where we might live next, I’d ask a parent to lift me up over the railing and show me the water. Thick and black at night, pulsing, lava. Clear, blue, tender in daylight: a teary eye. Either way, I was safe on the ferry, another place of rocking, in the urgent clutch of a parent, it didn’t matter which.
My father gave up his politics, my mother her love of bustling cities. It was a great experiment. We were exiled, a family. Love might sustain us. Love, and the island: red clay of the cliffs for him, the waves that slapped against them for her. I remember a section of wood in the living room that was especially faded. In certain, unpredictable lights, it took its true form: a trap door. Someone, I’m sure, could have escaped.
No one had to explain why they carried their homes on their backs. They needed nothing, stuck in the corners of our porch. I sat on the floor alone with them. Summer was almost over. I liked how they never moved.
5. Off Season
In October, the sky turned a dusky orange. The island, too, began to dim. Tourists left. Suddenly, irrevocably. Blown out one by one like candles. The bakery didn’t need my mother anymore so she retired her apron to the permanent dark of the closet.
Wendy Wisner’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Runes, Sojourner, 5AM, Crab Creek Review, The Comstock Review, The Pebble Lake Review and Mot Juste. Her first book of poems, Epicenter, was released by CustomWords in May 2004. Wisner received an MFA in poetry from Hunter College, and her awards include an Academy of American Poets Prize and the 2003 Amy Award. She currently teaches writing at Hunter College.