Aledo, Illinois, June
by Alyssa Froehling
At the site of a branch long cut away, he touches
the scarring in the bark and calls it a tree tumor.
We walk deeper into the pasture, mud flicking
over our ankles, through threads of gnats
that catch like hair in our mouths, past the creek
he broke through one winter in the early aughts, after soaring
off of a toboggan. At the time, I thought “duck”
always meant the animal. Tall grasses gild, then flush
as the sky gathers like a pinched bedsheet, a face
assembling into grief or a sneeze. He wanted away
from the kitchen, its fluorescent quiet. We’re here to say
goodbye to his grandma. He has trouble remembering her
remembering. I can remember her
scratching my back after Sunday dinner when I was little.
The cows begin their evening song. Slow, starchy bellows.
They take attendance by huddling together, swaying
against each other before they lie
down to sleep. Once, he told me when it gets chilly
my dad has to go out and put cow-blankets on every
single one of them. It took me awhile to realize
he was joking. Outside the fallow, near the house, puddles
collect on the bleached gravel, each walkway dotted
with mirrors. Dusk rises from the ground up,
a bath of shimmering heat. I swear I see silver
fish flickering around my feet, swimming through
the flattened meadowland. For a long time, I hadn’t wanted anyone
to touch me. We stop, stand shoulder to shoulder.
Stringy peach light diffusing over the hill. Moon washed
out. Frogs filling themselves
with air. He says I want a warm winter
and a cold summer. The highway line floating
behind rows of corn, pastures turning to milkglass.