My father fixes his glazed eyes on the splintered
horizon where old farmer Smith’s blade sheared
rows of cornstalks into tiny syllables, baring the field’s
belly, delineating its expansions and contractions.
Beyond that, mountains stoop silently on blue
knees in distant devotion as if expecting guests
to pause roadside, seeking communion with the past.
My gaze rests on the farmhouse, to the corner
that was once my bedroom, which slants, just
enough for a marble to roll evenly, one side
to the other, without the tiniest push.
I startle as a car approaches from behind, shifts
abruptly into the oncoming lane, speeds by. A bird,
probably a swallow, angles overhead with conviction,
scrawling its whole self across sky. I say my mother’s
name. Beside me in the passenger seat, my father
half-echoes: my wife’s name was Ruth.
Her name framed by his lips, a credential in danger
of losing its relevance, he asks:
how old are you?
I press my memory against something I can’t name,
cool and rooted. I am 52. My middle name is Ruth.