Bad News in the Blood
Oh it’s bad, so bad, a suckerpunch that knocks out his breath and makes his tongue feel like one of those weird flat wafer sponges. He laughs a little yelp, stupidly thanks the teenage doc who’s only too glad to scurry out. His head’s a big iron bell still vibrating, Whoa Oh oh o then something lower than the ear can register, a kind of body wave, a tide of ick, his heart aghast at the mess scumming his blood, squish churn it out, squish back it floods, wait why can’t his organs fix this, what fucking good are his kidneys, his liver, all those other whatsit glands? He’s trapped in his dumb body which has been only too glad to be led by the nose into trouble, oh why blame the body stuck in turn inside this awful doomcloud, some cartoon hamster ball revolving as he gropes and stumbles? Footprints smudge the wall rolling beneath his feet, tracking a trail of where he’s been. Look, he murmurs, oh look at what we’ve done.
Lemon Seed Sister
My mother, slicing lemons in the kitchen, gasps and clutches her tummy. Two days later she’s home again. The baby does nothing but scream. Her arms and legs covered in fine dark hair. Have you seen her tail, my brother whispers in our shared bedroom, and I believe him. In the creek I hunt for fossils, pretty gravel. Sometimes I find a waxy crawdad shell, its back popped open like a car trunk, the new body inside slipping out so it might continue to grow. She cried so hard, wail after wail until all her breath was squeezed out and she turned purple, a livid prune, shredding the house, the world, by sheer will. I thought she’d die in each horrible interval, refusing the next breath, shutting out the very air. Finally Mom plopped her back in the bassinette, shoved it into the bedroom and shut the door. She’ll cry herself to sleep; she has to learn. She asks if I remember, fifty years later at the kitchen table, as blue jays swoop to pluck peanuts she’s lined across the deck railing. We watch, count six waiting their turn in the crabapple. I think it might be my fault, she says, worrying toast crumbs with the fork edge into a fresh line. You know. That she’s always been so cold.
The gooseneck loosestrife grows thick as greed, chokes out even wild sorrel, weaves its tight rope mat beneath robust leaf-spires, gleaming sinuous spikes leaning, all sipping the same green plot: to nose out the bed barrier’s weak spot. Poke just one finger through and it’s off to the races, conical white-spiked clones aglow with singular purpose, pointing in unison, not looking back: Thataway.
In our dream band, on glass harmonica:
Ron Mohring lives and gardens in Cincinnati, where he operates Seven Kitchens Press.