“By Saturday,” “Aqualung,” and “Tumble and Fall”

In Issue 66 by Melody Wilson

Image
Photo by Alex Totaro on Unsplash

By Saturday

something settles. Next week’s

oatmeal eases into simmer,

the wide slow mouths of the first

few bubbles no longer startle

and pop as the surface smooths,

heaves with the humility

of normal mornings. It’s a chore—

the boil, filtering through

what I know, what is new.

The officers, the children,

the minutes stretching, twenty,

forty. Outside a dozen blackbirds

roil through seed spilled on the deck,

the red stains of their wings

ripple and crowd.

The dog clicks to the window,

barks, birds scatter,

regroup on limbs, the fence, chatter,

then back to the business of breakfast,

the only evidence of flight

a head tipped toward the house,

the already echo of the next report.

Aqualung

Let me tell you about the things

I hadn’t done before I found myself

handcuffed to a cop car.

I hadn’t punched a clock or rented

an apartment. Hadn’t worn a mortar board

or learned the word fiancé. I hadn’t

driven to my father’s funeral. Hadn’t been

in love, though I thought I had. I was never

teacher’s pet, class clown;

I wasn’t the girl they sent to the office again

and again. But here I was with a boy over

six feet tall fastened

to a cruiser in a parking lot in Jackson Mississippi

while Jethro Tull played Aqualung. I could

hear it from where we waited,

shifting foot to foot. Music and light washed

over the stadium wall and I kept up

the call and response:

it’s just a cigarette, just a cigarette. By now

the lies are all tucked in

to behaviors I can claim,

but then, I couldn’t decide if I was

angry or afraid—arguing while the boy

stood mute—officers testing for residue

the final song of the set winding down

...spitting out   pieces of his              

            broken luck

                                    Hey                  Aqua                lung.

Tumble and Fall

I was surprised to learn

             Mary J Blige had covered

                          Stairway to Heaven, but by the

second verse, she had wrenched

             the song just wide enough

                          from the past

             to open a tunnel leading

                          straight to the only time

I ever cheated in school.

             It was Business Skills, and I

                          couldn’t catch the other girls,

names ranked on cards according to

             achievement, forty words per minute,

                          eighty. I hovered around twenty,

so when they announced

             the poster contest I knew

                          what to do. We rifled the cushions,

found $8 for velour poster board

             and permanent markers.

                          You were the artist,

four years older than me, and traced

             Led Zeppelin’s hermit, glued it

                          to a black velvet sky

while I inscribed lyrics in shorthand,

             took credit. Even I knew

                          your future was fraying,

nothing anyone could do.

            A decade later I pleaded

                          for you to learn to type—

you had bottomed out again—

            the only ladder I knew

                          was the one I had climbed.

But you couldn’t see the point

             of all those rungs.

                          The poster didn’t win, and as

Mary J swivels toward the final verse,

             the arrangement wobbles and I’m afraid

                          she’ll do something new, change

this thing we shared. But she glides down

             the last four measures like a glass staircase,

                          your life, mine,

tumbling right behind.

About the Author

Melody Wilson

Website

Melody Wilson lives in Portland, Oregon. Recent work appears in Quartet, Front Porch Review, Re Dactions, and Sky Island Review. New work will appear in Sugar House Review, Nimrod and The Fiddlehead. She received the 2021 Kay Snow Award and high recognition from the Oberon, Dobler, and Pablo Neruda Awards.