Itchik woke his family at four, piled sleepy children in the car,handed his wife the thermos and shoebox of sandwiches, andpointed the great white Cadillac north. His hair was slick fromthe shower, the steering wheel leathery beneath his hands.Waxahachie was silent: even the diner was dark. Dallas sparkleddimly in the distance.The children quarreled. Somewhere in Oklahoma he stopped forgas, lectured the children, murmured the brocha for sunrise anddrove on. So busy humming he forgot his wife. She stood by theroad, a navy-blue doll, and clutched her stocky handbag. Aboveher the sky opened, the long clouds stroked the horizon, fat greyturtle doves spoke.
Christmas at the Ranch
Uncle hunts in the yellow fields.In the kitchen, Aunt is baking.A cup of brown sugar, a stick of butter,sings the KitchenAid mixer on low.After breakfast the boys wrestlewith night crawlers and fishing line.Someone is pricked with a hook,shouts break out, the fishing ceases.They shoot BBs at a Coke canscattering the scrub grass silver.Aunt is peeling cactus leaves.Thick tamales crumble to stuffing.So Mom isn’t here, one brother says.So what. We can eat as much pieas we want. I might try a beer.He skips a rock across the pond.Uncle drives the jeep back homewith a deer hanging upside-down.The boys watch him pull the steaminginsides out, the slick enormous heart.
This is where men go when they have finished.Evenings in winterthey crowd the bar, a few women laughing,talking about snowmobiles.The ball glides across the floor.Girls with straight wrists,boys making four-step strides,arms thrust like wings.Pins reflected in wood like swans on a lake.This is the real forest.
Rachel Barenblat is a native of San Antonio and a transplant to western Massachusetts. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. A chapbook of her poems, the skies here, was published by Pecan Grove Press (San Antonio) in 1995; another, What Stays, is part of Bennington’s Alumni Chapbook Series. These poems are from her as-yet-unpublished first book-length collection, Parchment’s Honey. –Naomi Shihab Nye