The Ill-Timed Elopement
The floral dress, ruffled and sheer, lies crushed in the cupboard under the weight of schoolbooks, laced footballs, and a catcher’s mask her new husband hides from his mother. She threw books out the windows and burned them in a bonfire when disease reached her brain. Now she dies in the next room, wan and hollow in her nightgown, calling out to the young wife for compresses and water, water, more water, saying I can’t die before I see my grandchildren and remember to save the scraps for the dog as she lingers in that peculiar odor of illness past blueberry season to peppers to pumpkins to the last dried husks and leaves that her son clears out with the weeds. The mother can no longer make it to the window–now closed against the dangerous air–to watch, but whispers to the wife for a cool hand on her forehead–or some garbled craziness to which the daughter-in-law is too kind to react and only wants to rescue her elopement dress and do it again in a few months when this is over.
Advice from My Forebears
Always use hot pack canning for your green beans
and test your seals at the end.
Don’t grab a burning oil stove without considering
Don’t get in debt. If you don’t got it, don’t get it.
Make up your mind what church you’ll attend
and go there as often as you can stand.
Be Dutch or you ain’t much.
Get the log out of your own eye so you can get
the speck out of the other’s eye.
We can’t talk about it, but here’s your great-grandma’s
Eastern Star ring so you will have a signal.
Never pick a fight but if someone hits you,
hit them back.
Always plant marigolds in your vegetable garden
and keep a compost pile out beyond the shed.
If they come to your door, feed them. Then send
them on their way.
Just let be.
Be careful with a needle; that’s how your Grandpa
got blinded, coming around his ma’s knee.
Sit on my finger, nobody ever fell off.
Watch your step on deck so you don’t fall off the boat
and get skewered by the anchor like your Uncle Lucas.
Don’t quit writing like I did. Make me a promise.
Quit scowling or your face will freeze that way.
If you see somebody’s thumb stuck in the dyke,
don’t pull it out.
~ ~ ~
Luanne Castle has been a Fellow at the Center for Ideas and Society at the University of California, Riverside. She studied English and creative writing at the University of California, Riverside (PhD); Western Michigan University (MA, MFA); and the Stanford University writing certificate program. Luanne Castle’s prose and poetry have appeared in Barnstorm Journal, Grist, Wisconsin Review, The Antigonish Review, TAB, River Teeth, Lunch Ticket, The Review Review, Redheaded Stepchild, and many other journals. Winner of the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, Doll God, Luanne’s first collection of poetry, was published by Aldrich Press in 2015. She contributed to Twice-Told Children’s Tales: The Influence of Childhood Reading on Writers for Adults. An avid blogger, she can be found at luannecastle.com. She divides her time between California and Arizona, where she shares land with a herd of javelina.