Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images

Will Go On

I.
You are just hitchhiking—Kyle and I are convinced—
on some new frontier,
way up North;
that brassy beard curving slightly in the wind,
the red knot tied on top of your head,
opening up your young milk skin and mild eyes
like an unsealed envelope—nothing to hide.

The long white box, though, at the front of the sanctuary
is decidedly shut.
Your father stands over and tells the story of visiting you
at one of your service stops and how the people there
called you “Ginger Jesus.”
He must have shuddered at the stories of your wanderings
alone on the Trail with sunstroke, or pulled into town by strangers
when you had bad creek water in your belly—
You were home in your bedroom when you finally shook off this life,
but you were always lifting the corner of the veil, weren’t you?
Seeing how close you could get to the space where the roots and sky
drink from each other?—

He must be hoping to protect you, finally.
This thing is lined with titanium steel,
Flood proof. Warrantied.
The great thing, he says
for every one sold, they plant a tree.

I think of how horrified you were to hear
that I had never slept bare-faced to the stars.

You should be the tree.

He must be hoping to protect you, finally.
This thing is lined with titanium steel,
Flood proof. Warrantied.
The great thing, he says
for every one sold, they plant a tree.

II.
Is it too cold to walk to the swings? I asked.
It really was, but we went anyway and wrapped
our fingers around the rusty chains and heaved
ourselves feet first toward the January stars,
fell back again, and heaved.
You taught me the word liminal that night,
quoting folklore scholars,
as we walked along streets we’d both thought we’d left behind.
You, ambling alongside me,
plucked at things like cedar berries,
rubbed them together in your hands,
and holding them to my nose.
You had decided you would be a collector
of stories, not a maker of them, no. (Oh but what about
the night you made me drive you along every bridge in the county
so you could lean your head out the window to smell the river?)
Do you remember this place before they put up all the plastic?
You glanced around the playground, looking for the metal slide,
and maybe for apparitions of your mother, watching from the sidelines.

(Oh but what about
the night you made me drive you along every bridge in the county
so you could lean your head out the window to smell the river?)

III.
Several summers later,
I was standing alone in the sun
across from a long, white box
suspended over a hole in the ground
when a little red beetle landed on my arm.

Its feet planted firmly on my skin
so that I could feel the moment
each one lifted and set down again
as it walked slowly on my side for a time
a secret set of breaths
and then mark the decisive way it released its grip
and with a whirr of sturdy wings,
a vibration barely perceptible,
a droplet rejoining the larger hum of things—
the layer that seems absent in afternoons
but descends around us in the air of our thickened nights—
one whole sound.
One long yes.

a vibration barely perceptible,
a droplet rejoining the larger hum of things—

Thank you for coming.

  • About

    Sarah Hayes Donnell is a writer and theatre artist from the Piedmont of North Carolina and is currently in transit from Spain to Atlanta. Her words have most recently appeared online in elephant journal, onstage with Madrid’s La Chispa Storytelling, and in song with Chapel Hill’s Cantari Chorus.