A Closed Field

Outside, the last sunlight in the world plays in the treetops, turns shimmering leaflets gold. Row upon row of dazzled green cornstalks reach up, blind, into the empty blue sky. A purple strip of road divides us. A shadowy figure, sack over his shoulder, follows his feet along the edge of the ditch. He stops and turns to the field. His arms stretch up, inscribe a trembling Y on the paling sky, and fall. There is a farm house further on, low sun flashing hotly off its roof, windows dark. The traveler gazes behind at his trail of blue-shadowed footprints, pale record of brave imperatives. Each copper pebble throws a needle of shadow toward me. He touches his face with fingers hes forgotten, body long surrendered to the road, and moves on. I watch him go. Beyond the cornfield, beyond the farmhouse, the blank piece of sky. As our luminous afternoons fold toward evening, I press my finger to the glass, trace a beginning, and turn away.

Inside the home, the lights yellow. From my place by the window I watch hands: hands clacking needles or idling at pencils, hands jumping checkers and closing past the hour. Divided from ourselves our waiting becomes us. The ticking and the tapping mingle with the warm scent of the dinner we ate. I think I smell time passing. I cant remember faces but I see them everywhere. In the nurses station, under the hum of fluorescent lights, a tangle of them, laughing. For us outside, the laughter becomes our wallpaper. The walls expand beyond our knowing, without our knowing. Their fleshy cheek hills, the black railway tunnels of their mouths, a country remote and dark. We are waiting for word. We are waiting to live, waiting to die. As another hour falls the lights sour. I am left alone with my pensive hands, feeling after a forgotten face in my own. A breeze pours in beneath the door and they lift my shawl over my shoulders.

Im not even old, Im only seventy-something.

While I sleep I run on boundless legs through a field of long grass toward the horizon. When I get there I stop, peering through the invisible pane at the rest of the sky. An old womans face stares at me translucently from the other side. I am awake, staring out the window. Outside, behind my eyes, its the violet hour. Sunless, nightless. The molten roof of the farm house has cooled, the light absorbed and glowing out through a single window. Inside, perhaps at the kitchen table, a man or a woman watches us over darkly nodding fields, the long work of days. Your hands are heavy beneath your sinking chin. Beside you sits a pad of paper, should you choose to leave us. Minute by minute our lives narrow to a single sharpened tip of pencil. But now the moment is already behind, and nothing but night before. Write a mute X to mark the spot where a decision should have been made. I cant see faces but I remember them everywhere. He must be far along by now.

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