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July 15, 2024

Continuous Loop (Uncut)

By Mark Parsons

Continuous Loop (Uncut)

1. Spring

The first day
the rain stopped

the sun shone,
the light clear,

hard and unyielding
as father described how he wanted the birdhouses buried:
to the eaves of the roofs,
and in rows.
We took our time.
The two
thick, squatty young women
who delivered the birdhouses watched for a while
and then left.
One of the women got out of the truck
to close the gate.
My sister says to no one in particular:
"Do over."
With the smooth, rounded toe of his slipper
Father traces a roof
and then full of mysterious purpose
tamps the loose dirt.

My sister, repeating herself, louder:
"Do over."
Father doesn't understand she's playing
a game.
The game she's playing is
My sister and I understand: Mother's not coming back.
My sister's voice:
"Do over. Do over. Do over."

Father scuffs dirt off his slippers and steps onto the porch,
slipping away like a draft in the seam
where yellow columns, as two different yellow shades,
overlap, before the door latches shut. My sister looks at where he stood
and scuffed dirt off his slippers on the bottom step.

2. Three-Pronged

garden tool in my hand,
I raise my head to look at the same time
my sister, sitting on a five gallon bucket beside me, looks,
watching the truck back up to high-pitched beeps as I look over my shoulder,
to see through laminated panes of tempered glass
Father's terry cloth bathrobe
bite his flanks
with rows of curving teeth
as he twists around in the bay window seat.
He turns around and looks.

*          *          *          

My sister hacks the ground,
driving the blade down in the dirt
up to the iron piece that fits like a collar
the smooth wooden handle.
Sandy clumps
break apart in my dirty hands.
I toss out bits of root and vine, long blades of grass.
We can't look away
from the broken birdhouses
piled on the bed of the truck as if lobbed by the women in high, arcing trajectories
clear of the staked metal sides.
Perches snapped off.
in ones with glass to watch the birds,
Some are only pieces, or sides.
Wearing sports bras and trouser shorts, the women climb on the truck and
use rakes with thick heavy steel tines
to drag and scrape the flatbed clean, leaving the birdhouses piled on the grass.

*          *          *          
Among heaps of dirt
dry in bright sun,
the white ends of cut root.

3. Twilight

The concrete walk from porch to driveway runs parallel to the porch
and intersects at a right angle the driveway,
boxwoods that look like incredible dinosaur eggs from prehistory
planted at regular intervals, evenly spaced
in front of the porch,
smaller shrubs between the boxwoods.

The concrete dogleg where father scuffed his slippers:
clumps of dirt,
faded lines of the zigzag tread.
"What was the foul?"
I want to ask my sister, but do not.

At night my sister and I open the curtains in the front room,
turn off the lights, and sit on the divan,
letting our eyes adjust to the silver of streetlight and moon.
Undulate border of boxwoods like
a sine wave
cresting the bottoms of windows,
the columns are fewer in number than boxwoods,
cast shadows into the windows and onto the floor and just shy of our feet,
our feet which are in shadow.

Article © Mark Parsons. All rights reserved.
Published on 2022-05-09
Image(s) are public domain.
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