The two-toned Olds swinging sideways out of the drive, the bone-white gravel kicked up in a shot, my mother in the deathseat half out the door, the door half shut--she's being pushed or wants to jump, I don't remember. The Olds is two kinds of green, hand-painted, and blows black smoke like a coal-oil fire. I'm stunned and feel a wind, like a machine, pass through me, through my heart and mouth; I'm standing in a field not fifty feet away, the wheel of the wind closing the distance. Then suddenly the car stops and my mother falls with nothing, nothing to break the fall . . . One of those moments we give too much to, like the moment of acknowledgment of betrayal, when the one who's faithless has nothing more to say and the silence is terrifying since you must choose between one or the other emptiness. I know my mother's face was covered black with blood and that when she rose she too said nothing. Language is a darkness pulled out of us. But I screamed that day she was almost killed, whether I wept or ran or threw a stone, or stood stone-still, choosing at last between parents, one of whom was driving away.
Stanley Plumly - 1939-2019
Woman on Twenty-Second Eating Berries
She's not angry exactly but all business, eating them right off the tree, with confidence, the kind that lets her spit out the bad ones clear of the sidewalk into the street. It's sunny, though who can tell what she's tasting, rowan or one of the serviceberries— the animal at work, so everybody, save the traffic, keeps a distance. She's picking clean what the birds have left, and even, in her hurry, a few dark leaves. In the air the dusting of exhaust that still turns pennies green, the way the cloudy surfaces of things obscure their differences, like the mock orange or the apple rose that cracks the paving stone, rooted in the plaza. No one will say your name, and when you come to the door no one will know you, a parable of the afterlife on earth. Poor grapes, poor crabs, wild black cherry trees, on which some forty-six or so species of birds have fed, some boy's dead weight or the tragic summer lightning killing the seed, how boyish now that hunger to bring those branches down to scale, to eat of that which otherwise was waste, how natural this woman eating berries, how alone.