Brevity Ten

Brevity Home | Next Essay |   | Past Issues


This is Just to Write: A Night Without Metaphor

Sheyene Foster Heller

for William Carlos Williams

Rummaging through our freezer, prospects are slim:  four Budget Gourmet dinners, two green chili burritos, a Jeno's pizza, and a bottle of Stoli. Cubed leg of lamb, chicken breast, and a pound of ground round.  Not one single plum.  The closest thing we have is a four-pack of strawberry sorbet cups—so sweet, so cold, indeed—but hardly ripe material.  And so begins a night without metaphor.

So, my apologies to the reader.  I can't say that I've eaten the plums in the icebox, and you can't inspect my sticky fingers, probing for the meaning of those delicious fruits, desire or deceit.  I could say that I took the last apricot from the fruit bowl—but no one was saving it for breakfast, and it was warm and bitter. Slightly fuzzy.

When I say I took the last apricot from the fruit bowl, I speak of a white ceramic dish and the overripe drupe that I ate this past Tuesday.  So, what to write on this night?  If I choose to describe a middle-aged couple who pause, but do not stop to rest in a rose garden this night, please know there is a real rose garden in Manhattan, Kansas's City Park and two specific people I am picturing in my mind. And if I invoke the Garden of Eden, I am referring to a very real place in Lucas, Kansas—the eccentric S.P. Dinsmoor's early 20th Century collection of concrete statues depicting biblical scenes and populist beliefs.  Expect no transferred values, no mismatched qualities from me.  At least not tonight.

On this night without metaphor, I choose to write about another night, less than a month ago: Steve and I standing in our front yard, staring at the winter sky.  It is dark and clear.  Wrapped in coats and scarves and gloves, we gaze up at a reddening moon in partial eclipse, only a sliver of white remaining. We don't think about our breath, pale in the cold sky.  We ignore the streetlights.  We take no notice of the cars passing by.  We overlook the litter in the grass.  We forget about our bodies.  We don't think about the thousands of others standing in their own front yards.  We only watch and wait.  We hold hands and never consider our leather gloves.

Ten minutes later, the moon is completely covered by the earth's shadow, its craters almost black.  We don't talk about the fact that this is the brightest lunar eclipse either of us has ever seen.  We don't envision the perfect syzygy that is happening above—earth, moon, and sun aligned, three celestial bodies at rest in the same plane for a moment.  We are only man and woman.  We're just looking up.  We are merely in the middle of America, in Manhattan, Kansas, in the northeastern corner of our front yard.

Steve wraps his arms around me, rests his chin on my head, and I lean back against him, our shadows in the streetlight melding into one.  The moon is exactly round, slightly shiny and reddish-purple above us.  On any other night, almost like a plum.

 


Sheyene Foster Heller's essays have been published in In Brief (W.W. Norton's second anthology of short-short nonfiction), Nebraska Review, Milkwood Review, American Cowboy, and Touchstone Magazine.  She is currently working on a collection of personal essays, tentatively titled Another Unfinished Woman.

Next Essay