A Red Scrim of Buds on the Distant Trees
After all that happened, my new wife and I park beside a river
dark and risen with the runoff from melting snow.
We stuff cold-reddened hands into jacket pockets
and walk a boot-packed trail through birch woods,
past a deserted farmhouse relaxing into its cellar,
a heavy animal that has floundered here
and acquiesces as the earth takes it back.
Before long the snow will let go, ferns will thrust
watery shoots through the mat of old fronds,
migratory birds will throw their colors through the shade.
We stand together on a wooden footbridge and look down
into water black with the end of winter, the stream swelling
over its banks, shimmering intricately as it braids
the flattened brown reeds and loosens thin skirts
of broken ice around the stems of weeds,
juncos bobbing from bush to bush and skittering
in the ground cover, the gray air fallen over
everything like the sheerest possible mesh
threatening to tangle itself into snow again.
We kiss. I love her warm mouth.
Pussy willows push their white tufts into the day.
Buffleheads rise from the river and skim their images toward shore.
Idea for a Movie to Be Set in Any Decade
She walks by the bus station
to watch the departures,
smiling a little at the tail-lights
as they blink west and dissolve in the red sun.
As long as she doesn’t leave,
leaving is possible.
The mine closed, and the men are humble
or angry, their wives waiting as brickle as sticks,
the children heavy like sacks of coal.
At night, stars drift east to west.
Autumn comes, with mornings of fog.
There are deep afternoons, like hunger
when you were young, and one of the men
drives with her into the battered earth,
stripped bare as bone, where they read
the tilted stones of the family cemetery,
and she takes the beaten man inside her
like the last sight of home,
as if the runneled and worthless hills
could shiver into sweet meadow grass.
The boy waited out the afternoon, sifting
palmfuls of sun-glinting road dust on the heads
of soldiers — disaster, a caving dune
on their desert expedition beneath the hot sky —
and waited for his father, at last, still black
from the mine, not too tired then to chase a boy
laughing to a fall on the grass, scuffing
cheeks with his coal grit and daylong sweat,
his muscular breath before going in
to lather thick as fat in the basement shower.
The boy watched this ritual: the father
sluicing work from back and heavy arms,
who shuddered later to pull the hardened air,
who lies stilled here and pale, is no one now.
Image: Molly Engel is a Philadelphia native who lives in Portland, Oregon where she is studying nursing. When not at school or the hospital, she likes to eat donuts, play with her cats, and climb with friends at the local bouldering gym. She has been taking pictures since she was 13, and after an introductory photography class in college she fell in love with 35mm film. Her digital camera has collected dust ever since. Find her work on Instagram @mollyonfilm.