Siege Engine

by Kelly McQuain

Beneath the eaves of the old train depot
I take shelter from a sudden storm,
caught like a crawdad in a plastic cup
—the coolness of the creek bed
my sister and I once plunged our feet in
hot summer days before the sky turned
blue on blue on gray-blue on gray,
and the maples, above, twisted their silvering leaves
as if in astonishment of the coming rain.

           Any kid on our street could tell you:
           rainy afternoons were for swapping stories
           on porch swings. Monopoly marathons.
           The snap of beans in small hands.
           The silken tickle of shucked corn husks
           falling against bare feet. Come evening,
           a Ouija Board might eke out our murky futures.
           Or perhaps clearer skies: fireflies in glass jars;
           the naming of constellations.

I knew my sister then like my fingers knew fresh loam,
like my head knew to bury itself in the clean cornflower blue
of a bed sheet drying on a backyard line. Then came time.
No more dancing together among the bright orange whirl
of tiger lilies bobbing in a garden hose's spray. I moved away.
Come home only now and then to watch rain blur to gray
a rusting trestle bridge above the town's brown slip of a river.

           I tell myself I shouldn't fight so much with my sister
           about our aging mother's care. Each trip back,
           more wind-turbines pinwheel on the mountaintops,
           going nowhere. I hate how my heart becomes
           a siege engine here, a system of levers and cantilevers
           and rough ropes I do not understand, never will,
           the way I never manage to find the right counterweight
           to hurl myself back to better balanced days.


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