The Tension Zone, and: Clear Air Turbulence, and: Still Life: Sarasota, Florida, and: Hot Water, and: Tiptoe, and: Water House, Shakertown, and: Cautionary Tale, 3 A.M.
- The Missouri Review
- University of Missouri
- Volume 15, Number 3, 1992
- pp. 45-52
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THE TENSION ZONE / Sarah Gorham Concordia discors (Horace) You have a home but not in the aloof gallery of climax forest and not in the meadow's quilted safety. Come to the edge instead, the ecotone where wood and field, cliff and stream jag together, where snakeroot flames into aspen and light and shadow try a tense handshake, a sweaty mix of daisy, moss, grasshopper, and slug. This is life along the margin, breath among the multitudes where twice the species tumble in half the space. A sparrow stretches its claim, pushing with little jabs of sound like hail on aluminum. A spider knits double the web, jumps out like a rusty claw. So if you are restless and cramped, tired of the solitary fight under your dark canopy of soul; if you need someone to blame, come to the tension zone. The enemy is here, and grows up and out and looms, an extra long Smilax tendril, a popped egg-sack unfolding at your feet. Your fear is only natural, the local tongue. And anger flares into beauty like the jittery switchblade crest of a cardinal under siege. The Missouri Review · 45 CLEAR AIR TURBULENCE / Sarah Gorham I never forgot the story—four co-eds boating too far. When water stilled and the breeze died, they announced a swim and one by one jumped into the sea, quitting their unanchored skiff a tumble of jokes. And when they'd played enough, floating careless in the trustworthy light, the strongest one threaded back to the boat, bobbing up. Then fluttered and scraped, but the edge remained above, riding too high, weightless in the water. How terrible, that reaching . . . Secretly I welcomed the jolt, coming like the bit of gum that snags your foot on the pavement, or the cloud wedge that drops you in shade. A little terror's good, a little worry wakes the body double which is far more courageous than the shivering bones I live in now. So on the night my daughter came up from sleep, legs vibrating like a diving board, stomach and throat squeezed tight a mockery of suffocation (what's happening to me? she whined), I went to meet her. I shook out tablets, a glass of milk and, good captain, laid down my voice like an anchor for both of us. Shutting the window, I climbed in beside her. There would be no foolishness tonight, no shadows flying from a loose curtain. No wind passing over our faces like a wave. 46 · The Missouri Review STILL LIFE: SARASOTA, FLORIDA / Sarah Gorham How long have I slept, my skin reddening under the dizzying light? This could be a holy place. Spotless little carts whisper close by and white umbrellas snap shut in the calming wind. My blood has slowed, my body aches, but I am no worse off than the banyan tree, flesh parted exposing a knotted traffic of veins, roots that grope upward out of darkness. Is this the price of sloth— the body no longer inviolate, one scrawny limb rallying for another's clogged and scarred breadth? I doze again and a pelican with one leg struggles up, appearing like the banyan tree from a chink in my memory, the non-time of anesthesia. Tiny bluets spot the grass, unblinking eyes above the surgical green. The Missouri Review · 47 HOT WATER / Sarah Gorham Moving your hand under the tap, you're happy to find a simple chill was the reason for your worry, and common hunger scribbled the morning too dark, the problem unsolvable. No trouble, no trouble at all. Outside a man douses his car with a kettleful. The door relaxes. Ice cannot resist, nor cocoa, nor those cleft pebbles of barley confessing to fleshiness, the way character is nursed out by affliction. You lower yourself into the tub, knees like pink bolsters, breasts whitening eggs. Is imitation suicide, as they say? Or Paradise, that moment of losing yourself in the other? First you are separate and mean, then larger, clouding up, generous, another thing entirely like honey sliding off the spoon, or the teabag that bleeds, gladly, into its bath. 48 · The Missouri Review TIPTOE / Sarah Gorham The Chinese...