Brand, a spoken-word poem by Zarah Moeggenberg
She said she pictured everything, her father’s body leaning into Gemini soft in the light, that the daylight would be fleeting the open doors at the far end of the barn, that the wheat’d be bent and tired. And Gemini nuzzling his hands. Hers’ll be rough as his one day. That she’d say it right there and then.
She said, The thing about it is you can picture loose sheaves of hay and wheat on the ground, the heat releasing from your gloves as you go to touch your neck, the smell of the deck that you’d built with him just the last week, the pine strong from the drizzle that took the morning. And nothing is right. The field isn’t the color of a long worked day. Your mother isn’t doing dishes in the window. Your dad isn’t in the barn, but where the half frozen yard meets half frozen overturned earth. And you tell him like there’s fork in your chest And he doesn’t pull it out, doesn’t turn around like you thought, but folds down, Picks up a rock, smooth and purple, the moon makin’ what was leftover from the harvest glow grey and hard. And he keeps turning it over and over in his left hand, the stone the size of his palm, dirt drifting to the ground with each flip, over and over again, until you leave.
And she was late to meet me that night. I can picture my uncle’s flannelled shirt, the loop at the top of his back, the shadowed lines down to his belt. I’m sure minutes passed before Brand turned around, walked the farm-length down to climb onto the roof of the Honda that died two years ago. And we held each other’s hands We watched the clouds move quick where the stars would’ve been.
I didn’t expect December, I didn’t expect Grandma standing in the IGA a bag of caramels in her left hand, a bag of apples in her right, debating about whether to make Brand’s favorite pie. Or, my eyes to hold the lights of her dining room for so long, brass yellow, as she and mom got louder and louder, “They’re not coming this year,” Mom said. And grandma had to sit down then, pulled the chair from the table, pushed the place settings forward, the clink, the tink of Christmas china, and when I turned, the tears streaming down her lips. Mom didn’t have to say it.
We didn’t expect January or February to mean nothing in-between. It was a cold winter with no snow and no one drove down the byway even by accident, I swear. I’d watch my mother thumb the numbers on the cordless phone during reruns of Jeopardy and I’ll bet Aunt Janet did too, only a field of winter dirt between them. I watched cracks take the windshield of the Honda, let the hood take the heat from my back most nights, wondered if the glint from the north side of their house was Brand come home for the weekend, scrolled to that last text I’d received late fall, the week Brandon said Brand, that night she said “Be right there.”
I never expected the spring. The green of the wheat is always different. Each year, each day. Brand used to take a picture from each side of our farms, would name each side. One year her side Yellow Dog River, mine Emerald, another year Green Water and Moss Lake. She’d make this spring something brighter than a gem, shiner than water. She said there’s nothing like crouching down when the crop is just starting to talk, to get eye level. Brand’s eyes were copper and I’d watch her fall onto her chest, grip the ground soft. She’d squint her left eye. “When you get down to it,” she said. “It looks like walls. But it isn’t.”
I didn’t expect this August, for the crop to turn so grey, for the magpies to yell and scream in the morning. I didn’t expect the moans of the combines, the empty deck across, Gemini to stop fussing during storms. I keep a stone in my back pocket now, pull it out when the wind waltzes slow between our barns in grey light, turn it over and over again when I see that last strip of field dance, those empty stripes of earth, the skeletons of trees. I turn it and turn it when I see the tires have lost their air. The Honda’s sinking, really, into the ground, and the paint’s losing it’s shine. But if Brand was here, it’d be worth it, it’d be worth it to climb back on top of that old Honda just to hold hands.
Zarah Moeggenberg is a queer poet living in Eastern Washington with her 8 lb-Pomeranian named Teddy, a lot of furniture, an unnecessarily large winter coat, and a serious appetite for Indian food. She received her Master of Fine Arts in Poetry at Northern Michigan University and is currently a composition and rhetoric doctoral student at Washington State University. She has been most recently published in The Fourth River, Oklahoma Review, ellipsis…literature and art, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Ellipsis Lit Mag, and SunDog Lit among others. Zarah’s first book of poetry, To Waltz on a Pin,focused on love between women, is forthcoming with Little Presque Books in 2015. When she can she drives to small towns for dive bar karaoke, thrifting, and to collect stories from strangers.