All around her, we sounded melons, practiced
at hearing what we couldn’t see, pretending not
to notice when she stopped at the stall where the Amish
displayed their loaves of zucchini and pumpkin bread,
hand-thick oatmeal cookies, pecan pies—
all wrapped in plastic—airless, preserving.
Touching the invisible film, she looked
as though she were trying to choose—or touch
some part of herself, her own skin paling,
illusory, her hair falling water-thin
and colorless down her spine. We had seen
her denial before, backward hoarding,
the house emptied except the dark cellar
where she’d put up the sterile breath of resolve
in jars, then wax-sealed, ordered them, a reversal
that deliberate, and that much work.
We were relieved when she chose at last
red bell peppers to weigh in the scale’s basket
hung beneath its palsied needle, then
counted exact change from her zippered purse.
We watched her leaving, disappearing behind a line
of brightly painted gourds swinging, opened
and hollowed for birds to nest inside,
perfect round mouths vine-chased, filled with wind.
ISSUE: Summer 2006