sporklet 11

Marvin Shackelford

Light To Light In Astronomical Units

Carol starts sleeping with the light on, and I don’t sleep at all. First it’s her bedside lamp and then the overhead too. She lights the hall and leaves the TV playing. Bathroom vanity and the fluorescent above the kitchen sink. The flood lamps out back shine into the pasture. Occasionally a deer walks to the yard, eats overripe apples fallen from our trees. We missed late frosts, had a good summer, should have canned. I consider the seasons. I tap the glass until the doe’s ears turn up and then the white bob of her tail. She breaks. In the morning Carol says most her dreams now are beaches, or at least it’s sand. She thinks a moment and then says, Pyramids. We smoked those cigarettes for years but think it’s unrelated. My hands shake, halving a grapefruit. She leaves for work and I round the house, powering down. Still the curtains give up the daylight at their edges. Carol calls on her drive. This dream last night, she says, I was in a lingerie shop, or buying swimsuits. It was Vegas, or maybe California. You were waiting and kept hollering to hurry, but I couldn’t find what I wanted. It was all two-pieces, and when I finally got it—something yellow and vinyl, I don’t really remember that part—I came around the corner and it wasn’t you. It was my dad. Is that weird? Well where was I? I ask, but she doesn’t know. I drink three glasses of water, part of a fourth before I feel sick, and lie down. The dust in the air makes it feel like afternoon. I’ve hardly started. I track daytime constellations around the walls. They arrange in fits and starts, and right at the center sit my fist and Carol’s heart. We breathe and we pump, gravity pushing down. After a while I get up and turn the lights back on, flip the breaker in the garage so it’s easier to start over when she comes home. She calls at lunch to say it’s warm, nearly too warm. She wants to count stars, gauge their distances. I walk to the mailbox. The road seems further with each step, time slowed by how we move, where we stand. The sun tops the roof, and I sit on the porch. Shadows creep out into the bright and if I wait long enough will rise to meet one another. Press their lips and gather at the well-laid hearth of our home. Carol wakes me, full of words and in for the night. I don’t know where I’ve been, but it’s not far enough. She cooks supper and lights candles on every table and shelf. We settle together, head to shoulder, and I rattle like very thin paper lined neatly, ceremoniously with ink. She shivers, smells of salt. It was the west and it was desert, she says, and the day just kept going.

Marvin Shackelford is the author of the collections Endless Building (poems) and Tall Tales from the Ladies' Auxiliary (stories, forthcoming). His work has, or soon will have, appeared in Kenyon Review, Hobart, Wigleaf, Split Lip and elsewhere. He resides in Southern Middle Tennessee, earning a living in agriculture.