Academic journal article TriQuarterly

Century Flower

Academic journal article TriQuarterly

Century Flower

Article excerpt

Hayden, your Collected Shorter Poems reminded me just now of a century flower on a Leeward coral ridge.

Along the path under the woody branchings-over cactus limbs and thorntrees hermit crabs in their unwieldy shells, their bodies grown lopsided to fit the sleeve, trundled over the chalkdust, looking the way I feel in this whorled English I picked up somewhere, with sphery eyes on chitin stalks, ridiculous sea creatures on the mountainside among the cactuses.

Isaac, who was six then, liked their vigilance. When they detected us, shapes swimming in the light, vibrations in the path, however they could tell the predators had come, they snapped back into their conches in a blink.

By now we were sweating under a midday sun and straining up the mountainside, with Francie sore a little in the knees and feet, and me all scratched up from the bright idea I had to see how things might look away from the path.

Here on the steep grade, when the crabs snapped back into their shells, without their legs to brace them, they would teeter, and the ones that tipped went barreling downhill past us into the rocks and underbrush, two, sometimes three or more at once.

Isaac laughed at them. He looked me in the eye, and laughed.

Hayden, next to yours, my melancholy seems almost a balm. How this may be for Isaac I don't know. But here was a question in his look, tender, unexpectedly, and sharp, deliberate as the laugh was effortless which made me laugh, and started Francie laughing at the both of us, all three a long time laughing at the laughter more than anything, with sweat-stung eyes, looking from face to face, while those poor idiotic goddamn crabs slammed headlong into the reef. …

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