I sleep while you work on, work and watch Ugly Betty. When you come to bed you tell me the snow has started, ‘although it sounds more like icy rain’. Thick duvet and you strip down for sleep. At 5:30 a noise wakes you up, you share it with me and then we drift.
The warm air over the water causes it. It’s rare.
The next day, you hang out at the apartment, it’s your home too, but having you here makes me restless on a weekday. I create a petty gripe and pair it with a real one, magnified, and the anger is right there, sweet, untouched and I could punch a wall but I know that’s ridiculous.
Last night we had thundersnow, but it didn’t accumulate much: lots of noise, but no follow through: this is me. You are a storm that appears on the horizon after dark falls, and the wind picks up the moment sleep takes us, and when we wake in the morning, we’re snowed in.
timescale unknown, as a daughter
You shuffle your tall thin frame, you can’t quite always lift your feet. They are too heavy, so is your head, and it leads you when you walk. We can’t talk about your heart, it’s weary, terrified, does it have to keep beating? If it stops you don’t want it started again. It flutters like your hands, trembles to flight. But your heart will keep beating because there is nothing wrong with it besides a little calcification, normal for a woman your age.
You limp and pause. It looks like your hips are sore, like the sockets are too wide to hold your weight. You never talk about your hips. Or your congested heart which struggles, lets water gather in your lungs, your legs. While you are physically heavy, your spirit is light, held aloft, high like your breaths. I can’t quite feel that you’re here on earth; on some days you’re away, simply split between places, between here and somewhere else. Somewhere dead. And then you come back, laughing, eating donuts and drinking coffee, finishing the crossword in a flash, yelling at the sports on the tv, and you’re all you dad and you’re never going to die.
Next to the power plant today in Morris, Illinois, was a field superheated in the bitter cold of the day and the fog of it was thick, chopping off, floating, trees; the nuclear hot met cold air curling thick as firesmoke but whiter, white down clouds stirred up by the ground, by actions requiring warning sirens that stand like skyscrapers above the flatness of the fields, sharp boxes to power them and radio stations listed to tell you what to do, just in case of fallout, and we parked in front of a sign as we ate sandwiches and potato chips by the picnic tables but we stayed in the heated seats of the car because although we’re silly, we’re not stupid, and shit it was just too cold and barren and plus we’d seen three guys in a pickup truck and even though it said DNR on the side (do not resuscitate, department of natural resources, do not resuscitate) I thought shotgun in the back, or three, and no one’d be there to witness the murder of a white girl and a black girl who traveled all the way to the powerplant’s shadow in a borrowed bmw to see dead winter prairie and it’s there we see a few birds of prey (bop, bop): one thin and long and wide and the other huskier, bulky with a white breast, and loads of northern flickers on the ground, and around the curve of the road it was quiet and through the trees we could see the truck and the government building and we stopped and were quiet but we left without walking and in Scotland I’m not always confident out in nature but I don’t ever worry about getting shot and buried, sometimes just shot, if it’s culling season.
‘I’m sorry you couldn’t be more understanding and supportive to mom,’ my dad said to my sister in an email and he cc’d me and my brother in.
If I’m thundersnow after midnight, my sister’s baseball-sized hail, midday, the day you park your car on the street.
composite trip to the remnant pioneer prairie cemeteries in central illinois
Up North Avenue we went and then over to St Charles Road and up down, turn around, up down an access road looking for a pioneer cemetery which supposedly lay behind a cement factory, but not so far back as the railroad track. This all used to be prairie, rumor has it, but it’s hard to imagine. Concrete desert sprawl and spread and ugly, a stark monstrous ugly over what used to be alive.
The cemetery didn’t have prairie as promised because it had been mowed, well planted with ‘real’ grass, a lawn, and then kept mowed. The stars and stripes flew in the center and barbed wire choked around the top of a new fence and there was a keep out sign saying you’ll be prosecuted to the full extent of the law if you deface or damage anything in the cemetery; and the full extent of the law looked expensive with court costs and everything included. Next to the cemetery sat an acre square outlined by an older broken fence which was black with weather (and weather when I don’t type the w, and before I’ve typed the ‘er’, because it’s late and my hands are cold reminds me of earth (and will now, always, remind me of earth)) and there was winter prairie here in the second square, looking a bit dead but like it might be alive in the spring and there was snow covered grass on all sides and outside the perimeter grew winter trees with compact birds’ nests protected in crooks of branches.
The next prairie was closed for the season.
After that was the one with the DNR truck and the sirens and the powerstation we didn’t see until we were leaving Goose Lake and heading for I-55.
The last stop on our prairie tour took us down a country lane. Snow blown and fenced only by violent barking dogs, we found the cemetery we’d imagined: broken gated, big stoned, with prairie right there among the dead; prickly pear cacti dry and living poking up from snow, and you knew that the pioneers knew this prairie as well as the un-prairie trees which had grown too, because the burning which encouraged prairie, not trees, had stopped, and the lives of the dead were counted in years and months and days if they were much beloved and hadn’t lived as long on this earth as the living needed them to make it.