Somewhere between here and the New River Gorge a perpetual flea market sprawls beside the road; a thin and ragged display, familiar as foliage: colored glassware stacked on spindly tables; a Flower Garden quilt; the image of Elvis glowing against black velvet, somebody’s daughter’s paint-by-number endeavor; a box of postcards. I know these objects, whether or not I stop. What I do not know is the ones who preside: the wrinkled woman who wears a triangular scarf; the dark-eyed man who plays a harmonica; the children, wordless, staring, dreamy, dangling their legs from the back of a pickup truck. I do not know these people. I slow the car, pull over, get out, sort through the postcards, pay for my choices. The old woman takes my money. “Gypsies,” I tell my children, watching their eyes, watching them widen in the rearview mirror. I drive instinctively, and my thoughts spin backwards to a lover I wish I remembered well, whose hair curled around my fingers in the night, one night, two nights, not many nights, after all; and the memory flashes past like a roadside stand. The postcards are old, with somebody else’s message.
Hammered Dulcimer Concert
Clean music. The notes fall one upon the other, transparent. Closing my eyes on this city concert, I hear water, the song of melting snow on a hill in Braxton County, in spring. You took me down into a pine-thick valley to visit the house you built and later abandoned. We stepped through snow still clinging to shadows of truck ruts, mud clutching our boots, the sucking sound of loss, divorce, abortion. Inside the house, we went from room to room, you touching wall and table, I filling my eyes with your past — peace posters, children’s storybooks, a coffee mug. You showed me the place on the floor where Sarah, your daughter, was born. While you repaired a broken window, I slept outside on dry pine needles, the sweet, thin sleep of babies and lost children in fairy tales, and woke to the sound of a sudden rivulet flashing through leaves, over twigs, under snow. “You can tune it,” you said, and moved a stone or leaf, and changed the sound in some small way, though whether the altered song was more harmonic neither of us could say.