Evan Vandermeer

Twyckenham Notes
Issue Fifteen
Spring 2022

The Island, II.

Iguanas are languid things. These,
baking in the palm-filtered sun, lie still
as fallen statues in the sand, except for the occasional
swish of muscled tail. They lie there, a parched green,
and one might think they wait. Some, nearby, 
surround the boulder she claimed as hers
the last visit, when she came, alone, on her first trip abroad
since Dad died, an early morning heart attack
having brought him to the floor, right after shoveling 
in a blizzard. He woke early, and must have
lain there for hours—a little blood
trickling from his head where he clipped the counter on the way down—
before my sister found him. I was off at college, 
and for a while, at least, their ruse to get me home 
before telling me
worked—they told my roommates, and one, like inviting a dog
to its final walk, challenged me to a game 
of Super Smash Bros., which he’d all but sworn off 
from the losses—but Mom broke, her voice broke
on the phone, and she had to tell me then. 
It felt embarrassing, or indecent, somehow, to be 
in the company of others, so I laced up and ran 
into that same blizzard, down the road 
to the wide running path
buried in snowfall, which despite the wind 
was more silent even
than the swish of a tail in sand, half a world away,
where I sit now, listening in vain. Last night, 
with the sun inexorably setting over the sea, 
we took a canoe
and made our way out to an island
not far from shore, an island so tame, it seemed,
we could walk its circumference. We never made it,
though—Mom stopped paddling 
a dozen yards off and, closing her eyes
and breathing deeply,
made me promise to tell her of this, later, 
if when on her deathbed she needs reminding 
of what happened here,
of worn but brilliant skies. Once, 
when I couldn’t sleep, and she assured me
God always wins, I asked where God was
when the towers fell, and with all her AA wisdom she had nothing to say.
I don’t blame her, but I can see
where this fear comes from, and why she drew crosses in chalk
on the window, as a girl, before bed. Who are we now, 
on this side of things? And who am I
to speak of the blood, when I wasn’t there to witness it? 
Anyway, I promise to try.

In the Hot Tub

Perhaps the best part about skiing
is finishing skiing, grabbing robes
from the hotel closet, and taking glasses of Grand Marnier
out to the hot tub, where we sit
long beyond the recommended limit
as the booze rushes to our heads
and we make ourselves bubble beards, 
giddy with contentment. But you stayed
in today, so it’s just me and your father out here,
pruning in silence. Before long, though,
we’ve drunk enough to loosen up—
two quiet men, he nearly half a century older—
and soon he grows garrulous, telling me
about his tenth and fiftieth reunions,
how after all that time
his old Milwaukee neighborhood
was completely unchanged, except
for the size of the trees. He tells me, too,
about seeing his best man
for the first time in many, many years,
but when I ask if the reunion
helped them reconnect, he doesn’t quite
say yes. Our drinks finished,
I see that his large sagging eyes—
a misty cataract blue, but naturally so—
are glassy, and they shine through the steam
he’s wreathed in, which rises from his body,
I can’t help but think, like the past burning off.

Breakfast at the Lake House

It's not that we're terminally ill,
or that we have some morbid death wish,
but when our friends begin to discuss
their investment portfolios, two of us 
grow quiet, focusing instead on breakfast, 
which we have been tasked with cooking 
this morning. It's a foreign concept to those who, 
like us, struggle to believe we'll live long enough 
to cash in on the returns. Maybe it’s just 
a failure of imagination, though
I once shared this half-joking
half-belief with a therapist, and he said 
it's not uncommon for sons 
who've lost their fathers at a young age 
to believe that they, too, are destined 
to be swept away before their time 
has come. That would account for me—
note the faint and infernal rash on my chest,
a blooming, surely, of some underlying condition—
but not for my friend, my co-chef, for whom
a long line of SSRIs have failed in their duty
pretty much absolutely. And so, standing at the stove 
while conversation unfolds, we narrow our attention 
on the labor at hand, me stirring eggs into golden shapes 
while he tends to hash browns he shredded himself, 
checking their undersides now and again 
to mark the level of burn.

EVAN VANDERMEER lives in South Bend, Indiana, where he completed his MA in English at Indiana University South Bend. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Eunoia ReviewJersey Devil PressGrand Little ThingsMacQueen’s Quinterly, and elsewhere. His haiku and haibun have appeared or are forthcoming in FrogpondModern HaikuPresence, contemporary haibun online, and elsewhere.

Cover image by Linds Sanders.
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