My partner floats to calm her mind: arms outstretched, eyes closed, this is how she soaks up time— Beneath her, hundreds of pounds of Epsom salt and water and darkness. She loves the quiet grit of it, the brackish rub against her skin. This is what I want for her— so, I picture it, picture us wading through the centuries: eyes closed, arms outstretched. A distant sea licks our ankles. I gift her a broken sand dollar. She pretends it’s whole, the way I pretend to believe her when she tells me she rode a horse into battle hundreds of years ago— shadows flicker over her in the floating pool. She reaches out a hand to meet them.
What light are you? my sister whispers from across the room. Red means I’m tired, yellow is sure, I’ll talk but only for a bit. Green is code for Oh, I could chat for hours! Often, I am green, my sister is yellow. And so, our nightly negotiations begin. We settle on a yellow-green, or a reddish-yellow glow. Our conversations follow the traffic patterns: my sister goes, then it’s my turn. We veer into speculation about who in our class likes Jason or if Mr. Edwards ever brushes his teeth. I confess I’d lied about having my period to get out of gym class. My teachers eyed me suspiciously (isn’t she too young?), but never said a thing. I break my story to let my sister paraphrase a passage from The Shining she’d just read. We complain about our packed lunches: an almond wrap and sliced carrots wield no bargaining power in the lunchroom. Through the venetian blinds, the streetlamps tentacle the floor. The late-night traffic washes over us in waves. Passing headlights wobble like jellyfish across our white walls. Eyes closed, I dive off my island-bed into the blue, blue—.
The Washing Machine
After Matthew Olzmann’s “My Invisible Horse and the Speed of Human Decency”
It’s water under the bridge, they say, as if you can put the past on a small white sailboat and watch it drift by. Wouldn’t that be nice? But I don’t live near a bridge, don’t own a boat, and there’s a cavernous void in my ceiling after my upstairs washer gave up on Sunday morning out of the blue. Or maybe not so out of the blue, it was worn and tired and a piece gave way, which is a nice way of saying it broke. Some days, too, I feel broken, but I use the phrase under the weather. People don’t want to hear about things that break. They prefer reminiscing about the miniature sailboats gliding over the Conservatory Waters in Central Park on Saturday mornings. But the past is slushy, water-logged, and dank. It churns, churns, and reverses course even on delicate cycle. Yesterday, I texted my father, an architect, on his birthday with a picture of the exposed beams. One of our annual check ins. He texted back: I’m sorry, I wish I could have been there to fix it.
SHANNON K. WINSTON‘s book, The Girl Who Talked to Paintings (Glass Lyre Press), was published in 2021. Her individual poems have appeared in RHINO Poetry, West Trestle Review, The Shore, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. She recently moved to Bloomington, IN. Find her here: https://shannonkwinston.com/
Cover image by Linds Sanders.
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