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Home Alone & More
By Brianne Manning
*Editor's Note: "The Gasoline Tree" was previously published at Yellow Chair Review
Hydrangeas dance at the corner
of the driveway,
illuminated alone by glow
of waning moon.
The rain has stopped
cicada canticles, the sizzle of solitary
Another night at home
Not missing you gets
The Gasoline Tree
Put your weeping to bed, little tree.
Your long-fingered branches
comfort and terrify me,
gently gesticulating a sleep ritual,
as I scan moonlit clouds
beyond Patty Bradley’s property.
I see you as mine and agree to water you.
The old red canister will do.
We never owned the field
Across Route 107, but it is mine
and the closest I’ve been to standing
in it is when I fetch the mail
from our battered steel box or imagine I am one
of its July lightning bugs hovering
just above the aurulent reeds, waiting
for August’s plea to vanish entirely.
The boulder at the edge of the woods
is as good a chair as any—a throne
to royal ideas that none of the bobwhites,
or finches, or meadowlarks can peck
holes in. The world is my cheese,
ripening quickly and furiously but full of voids.
I cannot take this with me—a home stone
in the pocket of a young heart set ablaze.
Do I love butter, dandelion?
Shine golden against my throat and give me sweet
words to say before I pop off your head
and toss your stem. No burials or tears,
just years of quiet cruelty,
like afternoons spent watering my little tree
with the old red canister. So much love and care
and pain. It won’t stretch. It won’t bloom.
We press flower petals between the crisp
pages of favorite books, hoping they’re rediscovered
years later between even crisper pages,
crystallizing reveries from the near
and slowly sobering shadows.
Dad will cut you down this autumn, little tree,
after twenty years of my watering you.
Yet, I can’t fit you between pages filled by my ink.
Sitting With Mother
There must have been a time in your life
when you wanted to be happy.
Maybe before children, divorce, or self-pity.
You hung the clothes on lines beside the driveway
and sang old Christian songs.
The malnourished goats were due to die,
so you wrapped them in blankets and cradled them to sleep.
You stayed up all night. They did die, but not in vain…
You sat in your bed during thunderstorms, waiting
for each clap and each bang and held me tight
against your body’s feigned warmth. We shivered
beneath blankets of wool and cotton. The coldness went deep,
deeper than I knew then. You sight-read old hymns
from your father’s collection: odes to angels,
repentance, and joy. As you painted with oil,
brushes scattered about the den—a metropolis
of books, bills, and banished antiques--
I never made a sound, watching you.
You smoked outside, submitted yourself to the will
of a drag. I begged you to quit until I was twelve.
Four years later, you begged me.