One Poem

Nin Andrews and Peter Conners

          —Excerpt from a collaborative work

There were always stories. He knew that. About her father, her grandfather, or some great aunt. They even said he could fly, or was it that he could disappear? The one who listened, yes, actually listened to the late summer winds. To the voices that are always loudest then. Especially in the years of drought. Some of their cows had to be sold, he told her. They couldn't afford to feed them anymore. Hauling water was too much work. When he spoke his voice cracked. He was always thirsty. And the air broke apart around him, and lit up with fireflies. She laughed and caught one and then another and another. They circled her head like a halo.


Her grandfather pulled fireflies out of the night, twisted their bottoms until he held their light and asked his granddaughter for her hand. As she spoke, she waltzed the patchy dirt yard with an imaginary baby nestled in the hollow between arms and chest. Inside, their parents played gin while laughing and drinking as the corn silk wind wafted shimmering leaf faces toward the moon. It was known to them as the yellow balloon.

The ring finger of the girl glowed with fireflies ... the grandfather held a glass jar vibrating with them.


He couldn't remember how many nights he stayed awake like that. Of course he reasoned later. Made up excuses. Said he was only trying to make it rain. He didn't know it was wrong. He just watched too closely and listened. Until he could hear it, even in the alfalfa that swayed in the afternoon wind, just lifting his bangs, and in the plumes of dust that arose when a car drove by and then settled deep into every crack and crevice in his skin. Until he could smell it, too, a scent like sulfur in the air. Rotten eggs. One day when he stood by her side, the sky turned suddenly gray, then green. Even the katydids stopped singing. And the bullfrogs. A single yellow butterfly fluttered aimlessly up and was whipped away by a gust of wind.


One Saturday the boy fell to his knees in the mud beside the pond and traced a moist impression of the girl's bare toes. He would follow her anywhere, fireflies would light his way. Is it possible that the grandfather could make it rain? Orchestrate wind into a woeful chorus of Sirens? Is this what the boy listened to while the yellow balloon waxed and waned overhead? The boy carried this song with him as he approached the girl's window—it glowed at the end of a fragrant organic aisle, mournful, promising.

If only the boy could learn the song.


You see they were looking for water. Most did it with those sticks branched into Y-shapes quivering when over underground basins, but not in her family. The girl used the boy this way as the women in the family had always used the men. Take my hand, she instructed him, not too tight, only enough to feel the pressure. Her long dress brushed over the scrub picking up a thin layer of dust that puffed out invisible clouds as they moved together. She made a small joke about the moisture in his palm. Her eyes were closed to the high color of his cheeks. They made it as far as the pasture's edge when the sky tore an unholy purple above them and thunder and lighting bore down together—no chance to count beats or run for the barn, only more water, more water, as if the bottom of a bucket had been blown out. Stop, the girl said, her eyes still closed, fingers resting gently in the boy's open palm. Everywhere water, everywhere water. We are almost there.


She shouldn't have let him go. She thought this later, looking at the pinpricks of stars reflected on the surface of the water that now pooled at her feet. She could still see the ghost of his body diving down and down. Did he know? How clearly she could see him below, how his skin was beginning to shimmer a little too? There were no fireflies now. The air was too heavy for their wings. In the distance she could hear the cows lowing.

Nin Andrews and Peter Conners

Nin Andrews is the author of < em>Spontaneous Breasts, winner of the Pearl Chapbook Contest; Any Kind of Excuse, winner of the Kent State University chapbook contest; Why They Grow Wings, winner of the Gerald Cable Award, and The Book of Orgasms. Her book Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane was published in 2005 by Web del Sol. Her newest collection, Sleeping with Houdini, was published by BOA Editions in October 2007.

Peter Conners is author of the prose poetry collection Of Whiskey and Winter (White Pine Press, Sept. 2007). His forthcoming books are the novella Emily Ate the Wind (Marick Press, April 2008), and a memoir about touring with The Grateful Dead entitled Growing Up Dead (Da Capo Press, spring 2009). He is also editor of PP/FF: An Anthology, which was published by Starcherone Books in April 2006.