RaeAnn Kime has been published in several college and art magazines, and in
the online literary journals HalfDrunkMuse, The Bohemian Rag, JMWW and The
Dead Mule. She lives in Southern California with her husband and children.
Why do you come to a place that is a portrait
of the one you left, covered in green trees
and water, rolling hills? A church that speaks
your language and is filled with your friends?
You have not left the old country at all. You've
brought it with you, and you force your child to live
out amongst strangers, but she cannot.
She wears your clothes, and speaks your tongue,
eats your food.
You are mostly happy here, with your
friends at your parties. You can ignore the
stares of this place's people. Your children must
stay home alone when you go to clean the motel.
Your daughter is very grown up for her age,
she is six. She can cook, and clean, she knows
how to bathe the lutefisk in lye, and your oldest,
Gordon, at seven, can hunt and fish and chop wood,
though not much call for that here, but he's
such a big handsome boy, surely the two of them can
take care of the baby, only six months, not even walking.
It breaks your heart to leave them, but your family is back
on the farm, and all your friends have to work, too,
in this big expensive city. Wait until your husband
learns to speak English. Then he'll get a better job.
Maybe let you be a housewife.
A housewife, what a funny idea.
Neighbor lady up the street has nothing better to
do than watch you and your family, out of her big
picture window, and your daughter talks to the lady and
you tell her to come away. Your lives are none of the
neighbor's business. She's always giving your
daughter food, as if you needed her pity. You make your
daughter give it back, and she cries, tells you its what all
the other kids eat, packaged cakes and cookies, a loaf of
white bread covered with a colorful plastic wrapper.
You come home from the motel one afternoon to your
mortal shame. Your daughter sits on the lawn surrounded
by neighbor ladies looking as though they walked right
off a movie screen: pearls, and hair done-up at the
beauty parlor. You are wearing a dirty pink work smock
and low-heeled shoes. A strange woman holds
your baby son, your oldest son is nowhere to be seen.
A man in a blue uniform stands apart from the women, and
there is smoke coming out the front window
of your house, a dying smoldering smoke. And you want
to run away, to where you are not a horrible jagged piece
of the wrong puzzle.
Toast In The Morning
I loved his fuzzy red mittens, the way he sniffled
and his nose dripped after he came back from skiing,
the chaffing of his lips. I felt a powerful protectiveness
of his pink skinned knee protruding from the hole in
his jeans. I wondered, is this love? Then he left for
Germany. He walked away. And whatever it was that
lived inside me got up and walked away with him.
With you I never questioned it. It was lust. You were
so beautiful. Caramel skin, blond curls girls would die for,
a slow sexy smile. You held me and spoke to me in your
hoarse voice, looked at me with your California-sky-blue
eyes, and all my limbs softened with a will of their own.
But there was no love there.
He had gone to Germany. He'd walked away. I now had
nothing that gave me peace, joy, whatever was the opposite
of agony. Instead, I stayed in your cavernous bedroom in the
basement of your house, and I flowed seamlessly with it. I was
cold as the purely skeletal structure I had become, yet heavy,
weighted with cemented pain.
And there was your sunshine hair and sky-lit eyes as though
you were the outdoors personified. You made me toast in the
morning. We walked the same pebbly sidewalks I'd walked
with him, breathed the same air scented with pine and spruce,
woven with chilled brine wafting in off the sound. I did not feel
the rain. You appeared to be there next to me solely as a sign
that he was not. And when I looked at you what I saw is this:
a lovely automaton filled with warm blood.
Your face says better than this as you bend your head hard
in concentration and intent doing. Sweat rains down your cheek,
slips down your chin and darkens your shirt as though you
will pay in your waters, and in your expiration get across
Your eyes show me that trip we took when I was five. We
drove up the coast of northern California in a caravan of
RVs. There, I wore down my innocence on water-skis and
you pushed me from behind. And then my childhood was lost
as though I’d lost a tooth.
Here, contained in your glance, is the cast-off water of the mountain.
And here my child springs back. It flexes its arms and leaps, just as
I did when I jumped from the railroad bridge. We all did, one by one,
little birds who could not fly. We fell from a great height, wriggled
our hand and feet like cartoon characters trying to delay the inevitable.
Our palms and soles smacked the hard surface.
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