It came packed in a small brown crate with the shiny gold label of the jeweler where my mother had her wedding ring cleaned. It arrived under the arm of a man my mother had known in college. He wore white shoes and drove a blue Thunderbird. He handed her the box, packing straw curling out of the cracks, and my mother blushed. While my father worked stringing telephone wires, the man gulped iced tea on our patio. A little house framed in carved leaves, made in the Black Forest – a Hansel and Gretel-sounding place. Mounted on the kitchen wall, the heavy pinecones spent their days invisibly descending. The front of the clock had to be held when pulling down the chains every night, keeping the bird wound. At first the cat batted the chains around, then lost interest. Guests commented on their restless nights, the crazy little bird loud enough to reach other rooms. My father and I stopped noticing the bird after a week. But my mother looked up every half hour, from sink or stove, like she was late for an appointment. Now she is deaf and lives alone. Still, she looks up when he cries out.
Gymnastics Meet There is the rigid drama of the Iron Cross on still rings, the at-once stiff and pliant boy razoring around the handles of a pommel horse, and all the mouth-watering words – planche, salto, pike. Yours is the high bar one simple horizontal pole to turn your tricks on while I watch you mount, extend, long body sweep in circles like a secondhand, then let go, flip in air, as required by the dry, unflinching judges, lining the sides. There is a collective inhale of audience wonder, a hope that you will re-take the bar as delicately as you let go, the same wish people have for baton twirlers and fire jugglers. I hold the same breath and you connect with grace fly toward me a gravity-defiant beast my new and wingless lover.
Leaving Summer Camp
Every Saturday across the summer counselors pack children for home roll sleeping bags with adult tightness crooked lanyards and bad pottery stuffed into pillow cases big yellow buses chaw over gravel come to swallow the anguished squeals of leaving and by noon they are gone.
The cabins sit still as portraits dark-eyed windows look in last spots of the wet-mop disappearing from cabin floors bunk mattresses leaned up tick with teenage secrets the trees continue branches strongly out listening for new buses.