Final Year in Ohio
February was greyish snow, frozen grass below,
who knew how green grass lived through the winter,
or why. Stars flew across the sky every night that
semester, apparently. I walked home at 2AM every
day through the dormant baseball diamond but never
saw any. Only the Big drinking Dipper gourd that hung
above us, impossible to miss anyway, and Orion’s Belt.
Once, Mars after someone in astronomy pointed it out
to me. The last time I remembered knowing this much
about constellations was at a train station between J.B.
and Mount Ophir. That has nothing to do with this story:
it was Malaysia there, I was still in a school uniform.
A skunk died
by the dirt path
between the road
and where we lived.
The day before it had
raised striped fur at us,
wobbling into the woods.
It died somersaulting upright,
head between hindlegs on tail,
a bad smell leaking everywhere,
this mixture of rot, piss, marijuana
got us all paranoid for a moment:
rabies? poison? bubonic plague?
swineflu? Nobody would touch it
so I buried it on the fourth day
of spring break, its body still
soft. I was bored, aimless
at the time. I wanted to
feel useful. Its eyelids
were pressed tight,
but a train of ants
Start of summer was walking in the creek
with a parang (that they insisted was a machete)
while it still ran wet, mud-mad crayfish darting
between burrows, ankles; overturned rocks
revealing wriggling nurseries for salamanders,
a hundred worlds embedded within ours
and still outside it. Learning the wild
mushrooms you could eat if you could
find them first (the word was ‘hunt’ as if
they were animals that could leap away
once found), morels with shriveled conical
caps on that sought shelter at the feet
of young trees, old trees, dead trees,
wildflowers with the leaves like umbrellas.
We carried them in plastic bread bags
with holes poked in so the spores would
scatter around the forest floor like Hansel
and Gretels’ breadcrumbs. For next Spring.
Fall was defined by green tumour-shaped
Paw Paw fruit on skinny trees: alien papayas
from random island-states in search of new
beginnings that by some immigration snafu
ended up in Ohio. Even the flesh (pale, soft,
sticky, sweet, white) tasted tropical.
The farmfield at winter break was two feet higher
with snow —of course he had to try and drive his van
through it, never mind that it was almost ten years old,
got it stuck the hour before they were supposed to drive
back to Pennsylvania, cost two hundred dollars to tow it.
My last morning there Ernie offers me a hit of his joint.
It is still summer: farmfield bubbling with colour, everything
green, flimsy, slipping between my finger and thumb,
suitcases, tears, salty mucus. The sky that day is an ocean,
the clouds sea foam sliding back and forth, the air cool.
All I want now is to watch everything till the end, to change
colour again. My wheels roll in place, daring them
to haul me away. My passport on the empty dresser is the last
thing I remember. What if I did leave it here? At the airport,
my boots still have cement, mud, grass clippings stuck to them.
– Stephanie Chan