Night Forest by Lydia Copeland Gwyn

Night Forest by Lydia Copeland Gwyn

Fiction, Vol. 7.4, Dec. 2013

Day clocks ticked in my grandparents’ living room. I hovered by the window moving in and out of the blue sheers. I knew not to look in your room. It was just a bed, some furniture, some clothes. I had strange ghost thoughts of you. My brother, a lost anthem. Our nana’s eyes were stale bread, like staring into nothing, and our grandfather’s yellowing skin was more bad news waiting to unfold. I went out into the street to talk to you. It was a new street—not any place you would know. No creek under a road. No walk in the woods with hidden horseshoes on a trail and buckeyes in the mud. No luck to take back home and shut in a box under a bed. I told you about my dreams. Dreams of rocks. Oceans. Brain coral and madrepore and small boys picking shells from the seaweed.

What came is gone. All plastic, quarter toys collected in the floorboards of our parents’ car. Barn roofs and blackberry brambles; fish caught and released; toy trucks dropped into lakes; shared bedrooms; a push down a staircase; a cracked robin’s egg; the babysitter’s big white dog, whose shoulder blades rolled under his hide like two dinner plates when he walked across the yard; after school TV; Sweet 16 doughnuts.

You took with you all the radiance—yellow in a grave like an eye in a night forest, a flash on a highway. Our mother began signing your name on Christmas cards with a halo over the top. It was the K in the middle that became angelic. Strange now to think of you this way—with halo, radiating—all sweetness and glasses gone.

My brother—your last stiff hand—a cloud in a dream. Hymnless, smileless, probably listening to my telephone calls. Shut in the Earth while our parents hold balloons on your birthday and watch them rise up into specks smaller than pepper flakes. Rise away to nothing—dayless, heavenless. Rest there in the space where no naked eye can see. Eternity enters you like a hand in a nightgown.

Now I have a family and a house in the woods. It’s very much like our childhood, only I’m the one in charge. When my tomatoes finally pollinate so late in the summer, my children pick every green fruit and toss them into the trees.

Honey as Blood by Jessica Bryant Klagmann

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