I Wish I Knew The Names Of All The Flowers
Going home is a separation between now and then. Whenever I go home, I imagine my father’s grandfather the way my father liked to remember him; in a field under the open sky, rays of sunshine glinting off the machete blade before the thwack.
I try to hold onto this so I won’t lose it in the sunrise after slick skin rises and falls together in the quiet of 3 am, dogs howling in her parents’ yard, echoing across a field of fireflies and into the mountains.
Whenever I go home, my lover gives me afghans her grandmother made, homespun heirlooms like comfort that isn’t mine. My grandmother died a long time ago.
When I sit in the forest long enough, I can map God like a presence in the gnarled branches and the sway of grass.
“Kiss me,” she says between the hickory and daffodils on a trail to the river’s edge. Blue butterflies dance around my bare feet on the cool stones sloping into the current.
My father likes to tell me how his grandfather quit the coal mines to find Jesus. He fell in love with a one room white Baptist church way back in the hills, up where the county lines must cross somewhere.
The only thing I could ever long for was a woman, unfolded like a petal, catching soft rain.
The first was my eighth grade history teacher who whispered as I hugged her a little too long before she got into her car, “Someday you’ll find a girl who makes you happy, and you’ll forget all about me.” But I still remember her breath like a stain.
I look for women the way my grandmother looked for angels, pinning them to the white fabric of a curtain stand. But women, I have learned, are fragile and can disintegrate into a pile of torn wings.
There was the dread locked senior who curled her legs around my hips on the dewy grass as we made shapes with our fingers pointed toward the stars. There was the new age woman who liked Woody Allan, lips brushing, and the scent of sage. There was the so-called poet who lounged in my bed for a week in a marijuana haze.
There is a loss in everything. I keep pictures of my mother so I remember her face, a box of ashes I haven’t been able to throw into the wind.
Sometimes I wake up next to my lover’s still body thinking of another woman, new like mist dipping into evergreen hills, wild foliage listing at the edge.
“What’s that one?” I sometimes ask my lover. “Rose of Sharron,” she might reply. I don’t know all of their names. I hold onto what I remember—the calla lilies at my mother’s funeral, ivy growing up the brick side of my great grandmother’s house, the magnolia tree that bloomed like blush on my grandmother’s front lawn, the oak and poplar scattered through the hills of my childhood.
Feagin Jones currently resides in Morgantown, West Virginia, where she obtained an MFA from West Virginia University. Her work has previously been published in PANK and Hippocampus and is forthcoming in River Teeth.