The small house was on a big lot, just like the real estate listing promised— All That Land.
In photos the lot is long, narrow as a bowling alley, walled by maples. Over the fence, a creek and apple trees. By October, branches were too bare to hide the missile site just beyond. My mother didn’t mention whether missiles were built or stored or studied there, but marveled
at the Cold War normalcy of children running circles around the yard as if chased by heat-seeking missiles, then collapsing
in the shadow of the military satellite shading the yard like a beach umbrella while inside Grandma floured the table to roll out a Crisco crust
and Grandpa peeled a Jonagold in a single tight spiral, desperate to carve away anything radioactive from the sweet flesh inside.
When They Ask You
what you’ll name it you should lie. Say something about chickens unhatched, a bloody speck in a golden yolk. Say something you can’t pronounce alone, like a trinity of little pulses beating as-one as-one as-one. Say something you’d hang on the fridge like an A-plus, magnetic poem, coupon clipped for a half-price haircut. Say an almost-something, incanted helium light on a gentle breeze. Say a past something, echoed in a canyon, a wind-based haunting, tombstone-rubbing, a great-great-great loop in time. Lie but if you say it, when you say it, it will feel like meeting again and again for the very first time.
Your most terrible memory is a sea of arms waving all together
like hair underwater. The arms meaning something else. The sea, too.
The hair not a corpse’s but a mermaid’s. This wasn’t the answer to my question
but the answer to a different one. The bones of an arm are stronger
than a spine. The ridge of your wrist can be a new vertebrae. The body
remembering it as a piece of its own. In retrospect, this can’t be true.
The graft all wrong, the shape, the push/pull of your muscles.
Though maybe what I mean to say is that it’s possible. It’s possible to heal
all starfish-like, new arms waving underwater. Maybe what I mean to say
is that these parts of you weren’t lost but shed. Dropped into the sea bed
like a second boot. The terrible memory of the moment just before or just after.
Your belly learning everything a hand has known to do.
-- Alison Thumel is a Chicago-based poet, writer, and erasurist. Her work has recently appeared in DIAGRAM, The Rumpus, and Salt Hill. She is the author of LIFE OF, which won Salt Hill’s Dead Lake Chapbook Contest in 2016.