©2010 Jennifer A. McGowan

First published in the 2010 edition of the Vermont Literary Review.

  1. An open field. Golden, fretted
    with intermittent rows of red, purple.
    She lies side pressed into the earth
    to feel it grow and breathe. The wind
    begins to blow, disturbing the heat haze
    and riffling her still thoughts. Now
    the rustle of the stalks whispers percussion
    to the cicadas' heavy drone. They memorialise
    their brief lives in these sounds of summer
    after seventeen dark years below ground.
  2. As many women have lain here, she thinks,
    as beats of heart in a country minute,
    relishing the racket, quiet in comparison
    to rushing dogs and children, the yowl
    of the cat as it's stepped on, again. The farm-house
    is just out of sight, but in her mind's eye
    she sees it rising from its stone foundation,
    square, two-storey, painted once each generation
    whether it needs it or not. The yard,
    tough grass and dirt, trodden by decades
    of hooves, feet and tractors. The barn, ridge
    sagging. That'll need to be fixed
    before first freeze. Swifts fly in and out
    of the hayloft at dusk; beneath, the heavy
    uneasiness of the animals fades to placidity.

    All that waits, and has done
    since the roof-raising parties laughed and swore
    two hundred years ago, or more. She rolls
    onto her back and squints. Counts clouds.
    Seeks, perhaps, the sky's clarity. Startled by
    the harsh, cracked call of a crow or jay,
    she takes wing. Flies free as breath
    into unwonted heights, some half-forgotten song
    from her childhood bursting from her lips.
    Here there is no weight but memory.
    As long as she eludes herself, she is wholly one,
    in the accumulated time of centuries.
  3. A dog-fox
    bends his way through the grass
    and finds an unlikely log. He sniffs,
    catching every scent: the breeze,
    crushed flowers, warmed earth.
    She smells of muguets and cold cream.

    He nudges her spilled hair
    to see if it's edible, takes
    the strap of her shoe
    between his teeth.

    When she awakes
    he's an arm's-length away.
    Both blink. A heartbeat,
    maybe two, and he kicks up his heels,
    vanishes without looking back.

    She sits, and plaits her once-dark hair,
    stands and stretches.
    Her sandal is useless. Barefoot,
    light of heart, she walks back.
    The flat blue sky stretches above
    like a prayer.