*Image: “Nine Suns” by Monica DiGiovanni, 12″ x 24″ Oil on Canvas
Karen J. Weyant
The Summer of Manmade Miracles
I dumped grapejuice into Gallagher Run,
hoping the muddy swirls would turn into wine,
and pretended the stale Angel Food cake
old Mrs. Rogers threw to the birds was really
manna from heaven. Evenings, I decided,
were the best time for miracles, as I plucked
moths from back porch lights and swept
them into the air, wanting a few singed wings
to flutter in the thin twilight sky.
In the kitchen, my mother canned tomatoes,
sauce splattering, hot steam plastering
gray strands of hair to her forehead.
She cradled the phone to her right ear,
her sighs so much like prayers, I thought
for sure she was talking to God.
Everything needed divine intervention.
My brother’s truck that gargled and rattled
would need a miracle to get through the summer.
My sister, who stayed out long past curfew
and wore shorts that cupped her thighs tight,
would need a miracle to get through high school.
And my father, who paced the floor, cigarette
in his mouth, a book of matches in his hand
would need a miracle to get a job at his age.
I scraped a black beetle from a spider’s web,
placed it on the picnic table. Even free,
I watched as it twitched, but refused to fly.
Touching the Two-Headed Calf
On one of her monthly excursions to buy eggs
from a local farm, my mother stood bargaining
outside the barn, while I wandered inside
to find it standing in its pen, both faces
turning towards me. Rubbing one nose
against the splintered beams, four dark eyes
watched me, gentle and curious, so I reached
out to touch an ear, the light blue veins
pulsing through skin, thin as my own wrists’.
Stretching to the tips of my toes, I balanced
on a bale of hay, and swept my hand over
its forehead, finding a spot of white curly fur,
silky as milkweed seeds broken free.
One mouth chewed slowly, then snorted,
both heads jerking away from my touch.
The whole barn stood still: rafter sparrows
ceased chattering, a gnat stopped struggling
in the spiderweb above me. I held my breath.
Suddenly, its tail snapped at a fly, and its whole body
shuddered, four legs trembling under the weight.
I felt my mother yank me back, a Don’t Touch spoken
with only a sharp pull. There was something here,
in the smell of manure, in the creak of barn lofts
and rafters, that she was sure would hurt me.
Seven weeks without rain, and I watched
the pond at the end of Hollow Run Road
shrink to sludge and brown lily pads,
white blossoms crinkling like crumpled tissues.
Cattails splintered, blackberry brambles
shriveled, sumac trees withered
into parched berries and bark.
Fish turned over and rotted
to eye sockets and bones, scales
skimming stagnant water.
Even the red-winged blackbirds fled,
their sharp scoldings turning
to strange strangled calls.
The muskrats were the last to leave,
slinking across the road. Long tails
trailing behind them, they became targets
for local boys who took aim with rocks
and their handmade slingshots,
near the hind legs, sometimes
a nose twitching with whiskers.
Some dragged themselves into
roadside weeds to die, others lay still,
dust turning into thin burial shrouds.
Only my father would stop the carnage.
Boys, he said, lips cracked, words strained.
It’s not fair to hit something that is so thirsty.
That fall, facing what I thought
were the final days of the world,
I cleaned out my insect collection,
throwing away dead ladybugs and beetles,
moths blackened by back porch lights,
and two monarch cocoons, withered to husks
that had failed to split open at the seams.
I picked woolly bears from the backyard,
fistfuls of caterpillars snuggled tight
in my palms of plucked clover.
Wrapped in bristled coats of black
and brown bands, they curled
into commas of oracles. I spent days
with their bodies in my hands, looking
for predictions of the winter ahead,
searching for what I needed to know.
Picking at Dead Possums
In the thin strips of gravel along Greenbrier Road,
we built kingdoms from roadside debris.
Cigarette butt boats floated in muddy moats,
bent straws propped up wobbling walls
of each pebbled castle. With no one around
to admire our creations, we stood still, pumping
our scrawny arms in the air, listening as truckers
honked their horns, the sound rupturing
the stale summer air that closed in around us.
It was here where I first saw death.
A twisted corpse of a deer rested in the clouds
of fine dust. Birds lay splattered, feathers
matted to the road like flies stuck to windshields.
Even the possum we found nestled near
a speed limit sign taught us lessons
we weren’t sure we wanted to learn. Curled
into a comma, its pink tail wrapped around
a limp black foot, its thin pointed face sported
black pebbles for eyes and a mouth that parted
slightly as if struggling for a tight smile.
Sometimes, said my father, Possums only play dead.
I was five, so sure of his knowledge, that I poked
the bristly belly with a stick, waiting for a twitch
of paws, or a thin hiss. We heard only the loud sigh
from a semi, as it braked for the sharp curve.
Illustrative Imagery by Monica DiGiovanni
Whether it’s the comforting melancholy of a warm, rainy summer day or the fully uplifting and opening of the soul aloft a mountain peak or difficult emotions drawn out from the heart by relationships; my artwork represents the sense that comes from being fully open in my life experience.