Vertigo, NC

“Vertigo, NC”, “Wisp” and “To my daughter, sleeping in the back seat”

by Katy McAllister

Three poems by Katy McAllister

Vertigo, NC

The hike takes two hours, steadily climbing up a dirt path through the trees. Sweat pools in the small of my back in this midsummer heat. Sun filters through leaves, a kaleidoscope over you, walking ahead.

At last you come to a stop, hold out your arms as though embracing the world. “Here it is,” you say, and I don’t answer because the clear green pool below us is enough to make anyone

speechless. Water from high up the mountains splashes down sheer rock face and moss clings in patches like fur of some ancient stone giant. Seven years doesn’t seem so many when we strip down to our swimsuits, leaving backpacks and clothes discarded

on a lip of rock, overhanging the pool. I have never seen this much of you, body lean and freckled as though kissed by hours of sunlight. You jump first, careless and graceful, plunge into the surface of the water twenty feet below, breaking

surface tension. You, darling, are fearless in a way that I cannot yet understand, a fearlessness of being thirty-two and having started over more than once in life. I am still young enough to fear failure

in a sleepless way. You surface with a splash and look up at me, hair slick against your forehead and face alive with a smile that makes me shiver. I tremble on the precipice,

heart racing from the height, legs shaking and toes clinging tightly to rock beneath them. The years between us yawn, a chasm I am still not sure I want to cross.

I jump anyway, stomach rising through throat in a moment of weightlessness. When I surface beside you, spitting water from my mouth, I imagine you kissing me, this place an ageless one. The trees will not tell anyone what they see.

Wisp

A tiny figment of mist
drifts, unfurling over the pond
outside the cabin. Your breath fogs
the window as you stand on tippy toes
to peer outside. A well loved teddy
bear droops against your feet,
waiting.

At last, a fox emerges from the trees beyond
the pond, tufted russet ears alert. It slinks through
frosted grass and dips its head to the water.

In the distance, a truck rumbles by, and the fox
is startled away. The floor boards creak
as you shift your small feet. A stray curl clings
to the window.

In the dim morning light, the old white t-shirt
you slept in looks like a ghost, flitting
through a colorless dawn.

To my daughter, sleeping in the back seat

Bone white slats of picket
fences line the highway as we speed
out of the city in the waking hour.
I look back at you from the driver’s seat,
to make sure you are still
here. You are sound asleep, a lavender
blush on your skin in the faint morning light.
Mountains rise up around us and the road
is a line of grey static, NPR humming softly
through the speakers.
There is a temple in the mountains, darling,
and I have nowhere else to turn.
We leave nothing but grieving
behind us.

About the Author

Katy McAllister

Katy McAllister's work has previously been published in Temenos, as well as Rising Phoenix Review and Flash Fiction Magazine. Katy is a gardening enthusiast from Michigan. She might have as many houseplants as she does books, which is quite a feat.