The Day I Became Golden
originally published in Caliban (1990)
Deep in a field that was not ours,
I heard a barbed fence call me
by someone else’s name.
I moved in the wheat
and stood before the wire.
It told me to hold it
like I had never held anything before
and the electricity bent my knees
until I was bowing down.
For moments I shook there on another family’s land.
When I finally could pull free,
I put my palms to the ground
and rubbed the earth.
In red I wrote some other daughter’s name
and the fence said, “Yes, Deborah,
now go wash in the creek.”
For Michael and James
in memory of James Reiss (1941-2016)
Immediately, the man’s voice, his words
or maybe the way he moved in his chair
and smiled, took me back there. Young,
we were all three of us younger and poets
and in love with poetry and each other.
We sat in chairs at a table and we stood
at his desk. We smoked and went to parties
and the park and read and sang and smiled.
We wrote. For him, for each other, for those
we did not yet know. Back there, then, so
long ago. The three of us wrote. Poetry
was what he was and who we became
and nothing, time or distance or death,
will take those memories or make us not so.
from the forthcoming collection A Wife Is a Hope Chest
She knew he was never without his quiver.
It didn’t matter what he had said, they hurt, his arrows.
The first one hit the wall, not the apple.
“It’s not very clever,” she told him.
“It is,” he said.
“Does the name William Tell mean nothing to you?” she asked.
“It’s an overture,” he said. “Stand still.”
But he missed again. He hit her shoulder.
Luckily she had balanced an apple there as well. In fact, she was covered in apples: on her head, on each shoulder, under her arms, stuck in her bra, tucked in her pockets.
“Burroughs killed his wife this way,” she said.
“Jesus,” he said, taking aim again, “it’s just a bit of fun.”
“Why aren’t I smiling then?” she asked.
“That’s a valid question,” he responded, landing one in her thigh. “Ask your therapist next week, why don’t you?”
“That’s not fair.”
“Nothing’s fair with you.”
About Christine Brandel
Christine Brandel is a writer and photographer. Her work has recently appeared in Callisto, Public Pool, Under the Rader, Blue Fifth Review, and The Fem. She also writes a column on comedy for PopMatters and rights the world’s wrongs via her character Agatha Whitt-Wellington (Miss) at Everyone Needs An Algonquin. She currently lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where she teaches at a community college and serves as a hospice volunteer. More of her work can be found at clbwrites.com.