Bio Note: I was honored to be nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart Prizes last year, and was overjoyed that my second collection, Bending Light with Bare Hands, will be published this year by Fernwood Press. In my non-writing time, I’m hoping to audition for another show at the local theater (even if just to stop my online ordering habit!).
Journal Entry: Black-and-White Photos
Old pictures, childhood in gray. Easy to believe the world is colorless, just patterns of shadow and light. If I could capture an EVP of the past, my voice might come through the static of all those years in playback. I wouldn’t listen, anyway. I don’t set up cameras to record dust in empty spaces. The last thing I need to see is draft and drift, mist and mirage. Funny how yesterday is full of ghosts. In this photo, I am a pale presence holding the pallid swaddling of my sister. Neither of us old enough to remember the colors of the world. Outside this image must be a cross-hatching of darkness and illumination. Doesn’t it figure? The river ashen. The trees a flutter of smoke. Somehow, the clouds never change, as in the picture of my father holding me off the chalky sand at a beach in North Carolina, my hands over my ears to keep the wind from whispering. You can’t see it, except for those loose strands of hair, swept up, washed out in the bleach of the sun. I don’t remember these apparitions, the barely shaded differences. Everything is a matter of gray tones, charcoal shadings of opinion. And in this picture, my mother’s hair is dark, black dress, white pearls. She stands apart in all these prints, completely defined, unlike the rest of us, fading in and out of dazzle and glare.
One of my grandmothers was Jewish; the other, Methodist in the last years of her life. One of my grandfathers, I can only guess, was Baptist, but the other was an atheist until his deathbed conversion. To what, I couldn’t say. My father is agnostic, and my mother is the same by proxy. My sister is Catholic-by-choice, not by birth. Her husband was born knowing those saints, but her neurodivergent son stood in a pew and screamed that he hated church and everyone in it. I like to imagine the only great grandmother I ever knew was the last surviving Old World witch with her knowledge of plants and poultices, her love of animals and storms. If, for some reason, I go missing, I will leave clues to my rapture. Check the altar of the kitchen counter, the books that bless my shelves. There is scripture in every scrap we leave behind.
My Parents Are at that Age
They act like children, call me to tell on each other as though I can do something, anything, to make it all better. My father says her cough is worse, that she takes fits until she can barely breathe. My mother says he can’t remember where the doctor’s office is, and he was there just last week. There are thirty miles of crumbling road between us, those hills and hollows of memory that rise and dip with years I didn’t know were lost. She’s careless, and he’s set in his ways, and I’ve started to think the worst, that one day too soon one of them will be alone in the house with only the dog for conversation. My father complains she ignores him, and my mother is sure he’s going deaf. I don’t know what to believe, how much is truth, how much is aggravation. Today, the heavens are muffled by clouds, and a train horn blows to keep me from crossing the tracks.
©2023 David Prather
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