Shorewood Hills, Wis.
“Children playing in leaf piles in the street may not be seen by cars and they are easily washed down our storm drains and eventually into the lake.”-The New Yorker, June 6, 2016
November and the skin of your palms is slick
with the smell of the earth after the rain.
Over near the university the umbrellas form
cotillions, raft up the streets in a flotilla of fog.
Up on the hillside the church, Frank Loyd Wright.
In the front yards the scoops of brackish leaves.
Their interiors are as damp and sweet as wet hay.
In your dreams the pipes rush up to swallow you,
a cloying sea of rot and swamp. There are limbs
swimming in the depths of Mendota. Minnows
dart in and out of eyes, worms twist in ears.
Even in your sleep, the water makes you shiver.
In the evening, down by the piers, the clouds are
the color of honey.
And the streets rearrange themselves into
something left unsaid.
When the air conditioner starts talking I want the
waters of the Hudson
to rise and take the whole of the city in their mouth,
to peel the rust from the
rivets as I lie here in bed. I can feel the fingers of
the flood on my skin.
Up in the tenements, floating boxes of dust,
bricks of Pears soap
checker the sinks. You hang up the phone and
unlatch the windows
to invite the cool air. Sitting there, with your chin
on the sill, it is as if
you are trying to become the African violet.
All these digressions like change rattling around a cup.
Like here today
and gone tomorrow. On a warm day in March we sat
on the steps of
the Cloisters and stared out across the river. And in
the hazy dome
of the sky we saw our future. The world felt very close then.
was a handkerchief I could put in my pocket.
All these things are transient. Still I want to be a part of
this unending tide.
I want to go out and order a cup of coffee with
a froth of dark cream.
I want to kiss someone in a speakeasy barroom.
I want to steal a painting
off the wall of the Met, maybe Portrait of Andrea Quaratesi
or the Hockney
they have hanging there. Angels in America is playing
and I want to see it
and I want to walk over the bridge and hold
If these thoughts are irrational, they are all I know.
I want to become a stranger to myself. Buying eggs
at the grocery store,
the moment when my face slides past in the mirror.
Walking down the boulevard
the rows of roses meet like a litany of desire.
Late one Tuesday
we took the train out to the Bronx where the landscape
unravels in a coil of sun-
the tracks threading like smoke, on and on. Soapy
yellow brick of the
apartment blocks, children sitting on the fire escapes.
The ache of the empty
spaces between buildings, spaces of everything left unknown.
Clothes ghost the lines
like the bodies that once inhabited their shape. But sometimes,
when the light
cuts across the corners just right I feel the tremendous ache
of simply being:
I am living. You found me here.
On Mohegan Bluffs
Displaced oil drum, drifted feet. The breakwater riven
in eroded sand. Someday, my father promised, he’d take
us to Block Island and the beach where he crabbed,
to remembrances of long afternoons on the rocks
with hooks in hand, scraps of meat stolen from the
Frigidaire. On the bike path, he coasts ahead of us,
the wind teasing his shirt like a gull. He tells us to
look at the mouths of the bluffs. The expanse of water
is too still to contemplate, so we fix our eyes on
the halo of cloud, the shells hemming the ragged edge
of tide. The vastness of the afternoon hangs heavy
that day, our expectations of the dark crusted bodies
too much to bear. Two hours later, we empty our
bucket into the sea. My father, quiet, suggests a walk
through the dunes to the cottage where he stayed,
played Monopoly with the family’s sons on the living
room floor. Charlie’s father, he tells us, was a judge
who roomed with Fitzgerald in his youth, and now that
Charlie has followed my grandfather into death he
wants to offer his condolences. We follow clotheslines
to the corroded hull of a dinghy overturned in the
yard. The house is empty, doors and windows leaning
into the wind, a scatter of sand on the parquet floor.
The curtain waves like a hand. My father climbs the
steps, waits a second, knocks. From the fence we
watch the jet streams ribboning the sky, the wake of the
missed ferry cutting a white arc on its way to shore.
Eliza Browning is a 2018 high school graduate from Connecticut and a participant in the Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program. She is a student intern for CollegeXpress and her writing has been recognized by Hollins University, the Eunoia Review and the Connecticut Poetry Society.