By Alison Hurwitz
Her door latch sticks and catches, swollen shut with many seasons’ rain. When she opens, it’s abrupt and all at once, wafting mildew like regret. The first grader curled there, reading, looks up, surprised to see her older self climb in, sit down on a musty seat. Esmerelda is a relic, her pop-up-top grown so green with moss, she’s ground-covered into stasis. Time rewinds, retracts to wrap her back to 1980 when your family bought her, new, on sabbatical in Europe, before you cut your childhood into bite-sized pieces, easier to swallow, small enough to say “It’s just a car.” When she was young, her rainbow curtains opened to a changing view of many somewheres, all possible. Long drives, she’d lull you with her motion, engine thrumming, slow-shifting you to sleep. Your father kept on driving her, long beyond what others whispered prudent; seniors, both idling at the light. Esmerelda, once multilingual, now mutters only rust and molder. Look: there’s the shelf of travel books from 1982, the swing-out table that can no longer swing. There’s the seat, once far too high for you to reach the floor, the propane stove on which your mother dared to cook you escargot on that cold campsite night in France, where snail trails silvered trunks. Your father called and told you that a nice young couple lost their home. Pause. Since the seat still folds into a bed, the stove still works, he’ll sell our Esmerelda for a dollar. Tomorrow she’ll be overhauled and scoured, made into someone else’s safety. You sit beside your younger self, her feet swinging, yours planted on the floor, watch the dusk keep darkening. Now you can’t see anything beyond the place you are. Night holds you like the kind of song you sing when driving somewhere just to drive, mind unwinding, moving only as the moon moves, down the road.
State Fair Mini-Donkey
Almost no-one is there to watch the miniature donkey entering the ring. Too late in the day perhaps, or maybe just not as liger hybrid cool as the miniature mule. But we are sitting in the stands. We see the donkey seem to say, pulling back, I never asked for this. Here she is, diminutive gladiator, goaded by a woman in a sequined Stetson hat, to jump and demonstrate agility, docility, compliance. She strains against her rope. Minutes pass. Finally, frustrated, the handler whips her flank and shouts behind her, Git!! Startled into motion, she vaults her forelegs over, then stops and blinks, bisected by the bar, as if to say What the hell am I doing? Refuses to go anywhere. This donkey: literally half-assed. Brays. Something in me makes me want to stand and cheer her stubbornness. Damn straight, I cry inside my skull. Why jump because the bling-smirched boss has slapped your ass? Even if you clear it, they’ll keep on raising the bar. Everyone is laughing now, while the donkey plants her hooves and poops. She won’t be moved. They have to take the bar away before she deigns to amble off, in search of hay. Punk-ass donkey. My new avatar.
I Walk the Dog, Post-Hurricane
We’d brought him out four times into the wild of rain and wind when he would whine and paw and pace before the door. We knew he had to go, but every time, the tumult was too much, and we could almost feel his sphincter shrinking back, retreating. Same, dog. Same. We thought probably he’d leave his presence on the floor for us this morning, when finally the roaring histrionics passed, but nothing’s there. As soon as it is light, I venture out with him, into the gray mist, the rough equivalent of a shuddered sigh, after losing it has wrung the throat from inside out. Branches have been tossed, upheaved, lopped jaggedly from trees along the path, so we go slowly, pausing to clear space enough for walking. We pick through aftermath like it’s an elegy, zigzagging around trunks too big for us to shift. Finally, he finds a place below the long leaf pine and squats, looks up at me, his haunches trembling. I think of how, in stormy weather, I would creep into my parents’ room, always to my father’s side, the lighter sleeper. How he’d wake with just a touch, and lift me in the dark, hold me, rocking, until the clutch of too much lessened. At 48, I wait and breathe, my own weight dropping from my shoulders, from behind my eyes. I lift my gaze to everything still growing, everything not shorn or sheared away. I am here, picking up the pieces. Both dog and I are finally letting go.
Alison’s recent publications include Global Poemic, Words and Whispers Journal, Tiferet Journal, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, A Book of Matches and Anti-Heroin Chic. Her work is forthcoming from Rust and Moth, The Shore, Amethyst Review and SWWIM Every Day. Alison lives in North Carolina with her husband, sons and rescue dog. She is the host of a free monthly poetry reading, Well-Versed Words. See more at alisonhurwitz.com