“See those hills?” Bertrand asked. “They’re pure anthracite.” “I don’t think so,” I said, “this region isn’t known for anthracite.” “Malachite, then — I misspoke,” Bertrand said. I looked out the window. The hills rolling by were perfectly ordinary, scrubgrass and the occasional dead-ended shrub. “No,” I said, “if they were malachite, the earth would have a greener tint. Wild vegetation, at the very least.” Bertrand said nothing, but I watched his mouth set an unhappy line, his eyes narrow into weasel meanness. Beside the highway, the hills buoyed wind turbines, cattle, the slow spinal grade of hand-driven fence. One held a crumbling barn, just a frame hung with boards, waning roof keeping watch over the dirt-packed floor. We didn’t speak until we pulled off for lunch, where egg creams salved the rift. Short-lived snowflakes dissolved on the glass. I didn’t know it then — couldn’t have — but by year’s end Bertrand would be gone, felled by a sudden lung occlusion. His doctor first dismissed the spread, soft bloom murking the curve of the ribs, but it branched beyond benignity: reverse eclipse drowning the cavities with light. Years later, on solo drives through familiar country, I would train myself to view the land as Bertrand had, ascribing to hills the hidden cities sheltered below, each footfall calling into chambers of riches, byzantine beneath each esker and berm.
-- Kate Garklavs is a native of the Midwest, who now lives and works in Portland, OR. Her poems have previously appeared in Segue, Thrush, Two Serious Ladies, and egg, among other places. She earned her MFA from UMass Amherst.