Old Man and Girl
- Daybreak, like a peach in August,
- breakfast at the bar, china and silver — doesn’t matter,
- he’d drink Louisiana chicory coffee out of an old
- field boot. Hand-mashed blackberry toast, chewing slowly,
- watching Ana Sofia on the veranda sweeping,
- a fickle breeze lifting her hair, letting it break
- on the shoreline of her shoulders, and her dress, white,
- rectangular, embroidered flowers, pressed to the back
- of her legs, the hem flapping at her calves,
- sweeping and sometimes stopping, sweeping and stopping,
- shifting the broom to one hand, the other floating up to her brow,
- looking at the day, at the cornfield, and he looks too.
- What does she see? he wonders. Strong green rows
- or acres and acres of dead stalks that lay like fallen soldiers?
- And what does she hear? He sees her hear something
- when she raises that hand to her brow, tilts her head.
- The voice of God? Or the wind rattling dead leaves?
- There is a kind of grief in wind-blown leaves,
- in rain after harvest.
- In secret weekend negotiations held at La Bastide de Moustiers —
- favorite house in Provence of world-famous,
- 21 Michelin stars chef Alain Ducasse — five CEOs
- of the largest investment banks in America,
- two Federal Reserve Bank presidents,
- a top-tier US Treasury Department official,
- and four Congressmen, both parties, well-entrenched,
- came together to finalize the Plan and left the inn
- only for the occasional stroll through the ten-acre gardens.
- Not only did their whereabouts shock Americans,
- but their near-simultaneous deaths 32,000 feet
- above the Atlantic culminated in a death-penalty verdict
- for the carpenter who — five years unemployed and utterly mad
- when offered the job of mushroom slicer for that clandestine gathering,
- hired by Ducasse himself as a favor to a friend’s
- American cousin — surreptitiously replaced matsutake mushrooms
- with the slow-acting, highly-toxic amanitas.
- From arrest to needle, he spoke only gibberish
- peppered with two words —
- you’re welcome.
- Words swim through shallows while a salmon
- in butcher paper sails through the air, thuds,
- slides across tile, collides with lemon, ginger root, shoots
- them past the knife and wine goblet, past spring peas,
- new potatoes, all the way to the edge — over,
- lost in the shadows cast from the center island,
- lit by the window framing the lake that blackens with the setting sun.
- The tip of her finger — nail painted pink, like labia, areola,
- like salmon — slides into a fold, tears open the wrap, pulls out
- the fish, its glassy eye fixed forever up, trained now
- on the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc meant for the glaze, empty,
- the last poured into the goblet, raised, her own eyes glassy
- peer over the rim, to the thin white gash on the skin
- of the lake cut by a sliver-sharp moon as his hour-ago
- words glide by again, swim deeper still, leave
- ever-widening ripples in their wake.
Susan Grace is an associate editor with the lit-cultural journal Fiction International. She has published in Autre Magazine and is pursuing her MFA in fiction at San Diego State University.
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