the road behind the hill

the road behind the hill

At 8:13, the solitary oak
outside the kitchen window pulls down the sun
with groping, fibrous fingers. Shadows stroke
the stucco wall in stenciled lines, and on
the counter, store-bought casserole is cold.
His mother snores. He creaks the screened-in door
to slide his bare feet over the concrete stoop
in callous whispers. Outside, the evening air
is soft as puppy’s breath. The grass is wet.

    His mother’s face was wet the day his dad
    had went away, wet Carolina sunset
    streaks of red on cheeks that he had kissed.
    John had moved in that year, a cheshire smile
    from cheek to cheek that said “just call me dad,”
    but whiskey fists can’t hide behind a smile.

Cicada song blankets his lilting stride
across the lawn, his shuffle leaving strokes
of green on cloth of dew. They sing him on
his way out to the road to stand on top
the yellow lines that split the street that splits the town
in two. The paint is cool as kitchen tiles.

   That day, his father hooked the tin-roof trailer
   behind the red-roof truck, the earthy smell
   of split-hoofed cattle mingling with the odor
   of burnt tobacco leaf and hay. They’d stood
   out by the barn together and watched the geese
   fly past the house in waving ribboned strands,
   to disappear behind the beechwood trees
   that lined the field. His father's algae eyes
   spoke longing in the silence. By evening he was gone.

The citrus moon drips down a lemon rind
of evening light that sprinkles him alone,
staring down the road that drops away
behind the distant hill. Tonight, he swears
he too will one day walk the yellow lines
that sink beyond his sight. He'll disappear
  to find the land of weary fathers, geese,
  and all who feel the world is not a place
                                                        for staying.


- published in After the Pause