Sunday afternoons I close my eyes and dream dry-mouthed of empty, muddy fields, or the barn stacked shoulder high with feed corn and sun-bleached straw. When I wake I write you letters, blunt half-truths I want to breathe in your ears like hope. The day you disappeared I walked the fenceline fourteen times. Deer crashed away from my voice scraping raw and red with each circle I strode. The path was muddy and I fell over and over. Halloween leaves plastered my knees when darkness forced my houseward. I floated them in cold water, left them next to candles burning at the windows, trying to call you home. I hate Fall: the frost gilding bent grass, the wind worrying and scattering leaves, the echo of gunshots across the bright hills. I walked the aching fields today, restless after church, my eyes dreamless and open. A doe staggered to the south field’s edge, beyond the fence where forest starts to struggle upwards. Sighing, she fell to her knees. I watched red stain her coat and wet the leaves that caught her. Two men in orange turned their backs to me and lifted her away, their laughter like spider legs against my cold cheeks. I will not write you any more letters. You never answer, and I have no place left to bury them.
All morning you wait for rain and watch buzzards swoop on warm air, tracing oblong patterns against the green hills. No one comes to visit, although yesterday your sister left flowers on the porch when you would not answer the door. She called your name, circled the house and peered in windows, cupping her pale face against them. You hid in the deep bathtub, all your bones aching. Last night, you dreamed yourself a suicide bomber in training. The dynamite around your belly bulged, cartoonish, draped impossibly with wires and a clock. The border guards will know you thought. Waiting for a man to map out your target terrified you more than what it would feel like, the sundering. You woke with sweat pooling between your breasts and your husband asleep, clutching your hand. Today your teeth jangle in your jaw, will not settle mercifully back against their roots. You watch the buzzards and think of plucking your molars out one by one, then working forward to incisors, finally the flat blades in front. Surrounded by teeth and dripping roots, perhaps at last someone would take you behind the barn and shoot you like an old horse no one trusts around the children. You wait for the rain patiently because it is coming, because you need a bath, because you can no longer sit in the bathtub without thinking: refuge. You think of climbing into the hills to find what the buzzards circle. You want to lay with a dying animal, roll in rotting leaves with it, hope that when the birds drop to feed, they do not distinguish between the animal and you. What has brought this on, you wonder, this sickness? You would sit and stare at the hills until your eyes bled with looking
Cassie Sparkman is a native of Kentucky and a current resident of southeastern Ohio. She is a graduate of the University of Washington, and her poems have appeared in Clackamas Literary Review, Seattle Review, and Poetry Northwest.