In fits and starts, births and afterbirths,
there was blood in the grass that year.
Later, she would remember everything
but the news; adventures need endings.
The waitresses called her honey and pretended
to serve her coffee while everyone else pretended
that things were as they always were, or at least,
as they wished things had been and might be again.
In their shared, cramped, close room at night,
she spied her mother’s naked outline under
a sheer nightgown. Why a sheer nightgown here,
now? Was her brother already asleep?
Had they been informed while out walking,
cicadas hammering along the narrow path,
crunch of small feet in dry grass? We won’t be
sharing the bed we never shared, anymore.
Her mother had geared up for this non-conversation,
for this cluster bomb and its legacy of delayed
explosions; rehearsed as one might an unreasonable
request, before mirrors, at steering wheels, alone.
They too had had their weekend wake-up rituals,
the climbing in, the gambolling, but it was first the one
then the other, one pillow each. She could feel
the flaw in their private permutations, even then.
No one is equipped to deal with gone, and
part-time arrangements feed on blame for balance.
They worked out the standard deviation by themselves,
little by little, through lack of lines on classroom forms.
Much later, she realized that they had been not two,
but three, children on the farm that year, making steps up
as they went along, forging ahead because
forging goes only in one direction.