Carolina, Open Invitation

Patrick Whitfill


But if I keep the train's call, or transpose what palmettos whisper as the first orders after morning, then I could bury all the old songbooks, all the matins and recipes and rituals. I could bury finally the line of bamboo, anachronistic and peeling into the garden boxes whose rows of vegetable heads I can't keep up with. It's the wettest heat, fronds drenched and dripping toward the numbing fork of the river. On Sundays, after all the greens have bled on the tablecloths of Baptists, we could drive past battlefields filled with untenable ghosts, fog, and maple. But that's all charm and foreplay, that's history's sweaty handprint, the warmth that lingers at the twist of your back for a good day afterwards. I remember our chilled vodka with lemon wedges, the cucumber, avocado, and the nothing on our beautiful and unbelievable lies but the dressings of our lips. Out here, under the sickle stars, past the crying mill towns, we can bury those sighs we kept, to see what they may grow.


So forget the chatter siphoning rain straight from the roof. Forget the rain entire. (Once, I gave it credence, and that was only in lieu of cloud and the common sense of winter.) Forget the clogging footprints of spring, and whatever that is they're dancing from the barn up past the drying wisteria, the one tongue of grapevine still clinging to its lattice of green. It's as easy as listening, easy as one ear cupped to the pillow, this bending back toward what memory's left of her: voice as white powder; cream for shoulders; lips that happen one after the other after the other. Palm; wrinkles; milk of her unspoiled back. I knew a word or two, but lost those miles ago. What I'll miss the most, what I plan on telling to every ditch, to every blasted pheasant squiggling itself to death, is how, for a month after she left, when it rained, the barrels stayed empty, but puddles were tossed all around.

Patrick Whitfill was formerly a writer-in-residence with Hub-Bub in South Carolina. His poetry appears or is forthcoming in Mid-American Review, The Evansville Review, Poet Lore, and West Branch, among others. His fiction can be found online at Juked, the2ndhand, Pindeldyboz and a few other places, too.