By Elisabeth von Uhl
At the end of my suffering is a fissure in the soil.
It widens as the ground regenerates. Rot coming around
to birth. Faith borne of cycles; seasons shed and memory
recoils. The dandelions burst through—readying for spring
with curves circling tips that split soil. Their fight
and sever is beyond the soft, past the green.
Stems then thicken—force down roots rupturing the dirt.
Leaves cleave against pure shade and scrapes of sun. It
is the scarring over of the seasons. Everyone envies flora’s flawed mercy,
cracked like hatched eggs on the banks of a rising river.
The anxious magnolia flowers have bloomed over this ripened
world. Winter has been cleared—suffering and sorrow
and leftover language drowned out by spring rains. Rust-colored
worms emerge: meaty and charged. It is the filling of emptiness.
How brutal the reversing of withering? How ravaging
the rifts erupt among blades of grass? Winter is the quiet, sturdy bone.
Spring is the impatient, savage packing on of flesh.
Bibles in rearview window
After Henry, the seven-year-old boy, drowned
in the Mississippi
behind our house, his father, slight and slow,
dismantled his handgun into pieces like chunks of black
from the corner store dispersed under dirt.
Years later, new owners of his house, two doors down from ours,
found metal while cultivating
the sandy soil piecemeal hoping to grow cosmos,
roses, and lavender with bright petals
the same sun that crest rivers,
flat and creamy with mud. Now, this same sun
in the rear window of a neighbor’s
cherry red Honda Civic as the bibles, those cues
taken by magicians, rot.
And that slick, organized violence of the river
is largely implicit
in those sun-bleached, male-named pages.
Along with shame and its smooth, open stream
swirled around Henry, both gasping.
The Bible’s covers now cracked and warped—
skeletons unhinged. And the heavy air
of the car’s interior is stifling.
The car’s lights are now red and rusty:
old pain radiates, throbs, diverges,
yet a parent’s forgiveness
is the sleight of a magician’s hand
gestured towards a boy-sized, casket-like box; his toothy,
tart smile recedes, he counts
“one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three…”
as the trick splinters minds leaving a pile of bones
and hearts as small as cherry apples.
This equation of the body: its addends
of hair, blood, teeth, and soul unequal
in biblical proportions.
All of them lies scattered in the river’s infinite wake.
Elisabeth von Uhl has earned an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College along with scholarships to the Prague Summer Writer’s Conference, Greenwich Village Writer’s Workshop, and the Postgraduate Writer’s Conference. Her work has been published in Lunch Ticket, The Cortland Review, SHIFT, Cream City Review, and other journals. Her chapbook, Ocean Sea, which was a semi-finalist in the Black Lawrence Press Chapbook Contest, has been published by Finishing Line Press.