Feature: Issue No. 17, Summer 2016

The Leonids

Brushfire tormented and lapping at the hardened mesquite. Smells tender. Haphazard. Like someone’s old shirt left in the bed. The accidental end of winter. And in one woman’s hand, the two whitest bones unknown to men. And her two summer-blushed legs balanced somewhere between Purgatory Road and the Devil’s Backbone. Real places. Almost unbelievable. And several other bodies, all strangers to each other, lined around their parked cars on the top of the ridge. Three in the morning. The Leonids shower. Some people come here looking for ghosts. It’s not just the name. It’s the breathy remarks made by wings of owls. The howl of toads. How the heat fights the cold hillside air in a damp struggle at the back of the neck, moistening the baby hairs.  The gutters of the slopes blacken, hollow out the trees burning with the memory of shape in the constellation light. At this time of night, the terrain is emptied, capable of containing anything. Except meteors, maybe she tells herself. She keeps watching the wrong patch of sky. This could be said to be a way of life significant to her. She can hear the soft stranger’s voices raise with there’s one! But by the time she turns around she can only see the long arc of an arm ending in a pointed finger ending in a space where a moment before was the trail of a meteor. An indication of an indication. Now nothing. But she will stay on. There was a hand on her knee earlier today. There was a lonely cow chewing cud in a field overgrown and neglected.  These two things have something in common. And now, the Leonids.

This is where she was on the day you were born. Your mother has a unique gift: the ability to become somewhere else. For lack of a better word, the closest you could imagine is traveling time. But, it does not require what books and movies might suggest, powders and machines–how grotesque. It only requires that one sees exactly what is in front of them. To be completely honest about it. I am not saying it is easy for you when she’s laying in a circle of faces in a park, a little drunk, talking about Wallace Stevens on a summer night. I mean, when it’s a day that your first tooth fell out. Or when she watches the muddy gulf overtake the sand like a spilled palette. I am not saying it has been fair for you to endure that stillness of her body, hollowed like a shell that you have even gone so far as to put your ear up to in order to hear some voice, some answer. Or even that she shouldn’t have tried a little bit harder to be around on your twelfth birthday instead of seated in an abandoned house, torn fractures of wood digging into the back of the thighs and a warm wind shaking the moss, rippling the levee lost deep in the country. A pair of lips so close that she could whisper and touch them. But she doesn’t. She’d like to live in this house. She would put up a print of Picasso’s “Girl Before a Mirror” instead of a mirror. Perhaps it was even worse for you, sweet sixteen you know, when she returned to that place, only some years later. From the window of her car she saw that the old house had been torn down and she stopped on the side of the road to weep a bit and think about inconceivable time and the theory of ubi sunt. I am not telling you to be consoled. Only patient. It is not an easy weight to bear. That’s why so many of us do not choose it.

She has that look sometimes, you know, when she feels herself slipping through as if she has no mass, no gravity at all. Sometimes she lifts a desperate five fingers in a gesture of farewell. Sometimes she locks herself under pillows to sob about it and to desire for a lived understanding of the word fleeting. But, when she is here, she is more so than the rest of us. You have surely felt it. How the world seems glued to her slightest movement. How a lilt in her lower lip can turn the room upside down. Think of that summer day when you were six and you were both playing in the sprinkler and it felt like it was her, and not the water, raining down all around you, forming rainbows in your eyelashes. Or how she can lift a tilted palm to your cheekbones, cover the rough outline of your jaw, and hold everything still. But, eventually, a shadow will flicker across the back of her eyes. Her muscles will grow weaker. And then, the Leonids.

Andi Boyd currently resides in San Antonio, Texas. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Texas State University. Her poetry and flash fiction has previously appeared in Gulf Coast, Pembroke Magazine, Narrative Magazine, and Gone Lawn.