August 2002, Montana
Because it’s like waking from a thousand years of sleep to see that sky now — the first time
I was seventeen and remember the car tracing a line across the state’s broad back, the wind
shearing across the grassland, the mountains always arched in front of us — the sky so deep
but it pressed on me, left me flushed and shaking — and driving, driving endlessly —
my friend, who lives there now, says the grasslands are called West Dakota, the way the earth
lies flat, rolling out toward the Rockies, he says the speed limit used to be just
reasonable and prudent, but they’ve brought it back down to seventy-five —
when we were younger, I liked the way he held my face in his hands when he kissed me.
August 1986, Vermont
I was mute under that sky because coming from the east all I knew were grids
and boundaries, lines and houses locked in patterns, traffic lights at every corner —
one night I straddled my friend’s lap, took his face in my hands and kissed him — not
what he wanted — but he said, stay, and we were so close we were like one pulse —
years pass and I remind him, tell him how it felt — like flooring it through a stop sign, the fear
of impact took my head off, made my hands numb, how I wanted to laugh out loud, and then
all that year or more I couldn’t sleep without struggling, and he says he can’t remember
anything like fear in me, just my scent, my small breasts, and his own drive.
August 1987, West Virginia
Speeding across the New River Gorge Bridge that rolls out a flat half-mile or more,
more than a quarter-mile down, an arched back supporting a steel frame,
the longest single arch bridge in the world, my friend tells me, he likes the flatness
of it under him, the way it lies mostly still, but quivers when the big trucks cross —
What do you want? he finally shouts, pounding the steering wheel with his fist — I don’t
understand this question, the weird, blank, blueness of it suspended all around
the bridge over the tangled crotch of the river — later, I think I know: he is sure
I love him, would be his if only he asked, which he does not do and never will.
December 2002, Maryland
When my toddler daughter cries out in frustration, there are too many rules,
I want to tell her, well then, jump that fence and run —
but I don’t because I remember that in books written for adolescent girls,
heroines in the old west like to ride their horses out fast over the reverberating sod
until their homes slip back under the earth’s slight curve —
holding the rope bridle tight in their hands until their breath comes in short gasps,
until everything they know vanishes into the slit between sky and grass.
Jeneva Stone — poet, blogger, mother, federal employee, practical g/i nurse, interpreter of EOBs, queen of medical necessity letters, keeper of the family exchequer, unlicensed physical therapist, knowledgeable wheelchair mechanic — may also be found at Busily Seeking… Continual Change.