June 22, 2009

Elizabeth Westmark

A Bed for Drunken Robins

Wheat, rye and oats grow tall in this warm, wet spring. Seed heads are ripe. Turkey hens troll, parting the pale green stalks.

I stand at the window, squinting into birder’s binoculars, and suck in my breath as dozens of indigo buntings light on the stalks, riding them slowly to the ground.

We have been together so long you are taking on my arthritic fingers and I am flirting with your gastrointestinal quirks.

I stand at the window and think about the day we met. When did you pull me through the keyhole of my self-locked room? When did my walls fall?

There were those heady, love-at-first-sight nights and days in a secret room at the beach; but we were grown-ups. Either of us could have walked away.

I stand at the window as morning sun brings a flock of red-breasted robins to feast on the seeds.

Was it when we talked through nights and days in that serious space between lives, the collision of worlds where estranged spouses and grown children orbited us like lost planets; while houses, furniture, picture albums of family trips, linens, china, brass mirrors, town friends and all the hip, cool loneliness of my femme fatale days thrashed and crashed around us in the hermetically sealed bubble we drew around ourselves?

Or was it when you drew letters with your finger on my hand, speaking your fear that our age difference would widen, in time?

I stand at the window, knowing that the grass field will wither and the birds will fly on until at last they rest.

One day, shortly after we met, you told me about the robins in your mother’s chinaberry tree, the robins drunk from eating fermented berries, falling like Friday night workmen from branch to ground, sanguine cats lurking nearby with bibs on, washing their paws. You, fierce lone boy, fetched shoeboxes from your mother’s closet and tenderly laid the drunken robins side by side, head to head, put them on the screened porch to sleep it off, and then returned them outdoors to fly.

That was the day my walls, my infinite walls, surrendered.

I turn from the window, retracing my steps to our bedroom’s cool, dark cave. Your steady breath never changes, but your wise foot inchworms sidewise under the covers.

We dream, we feast, and together we will ride the tall seed heads down into the knowing ground.

—An earlier version appeared in The Elder Storytelling Place, 2008


Elizabeth Westmark's essays and stories have appeared in Brevity, The Emerald Coast Review XIV, Dead Mule, Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal, The Elder Storytelling Place, among others. She lives in Pensacola, Florida, in a Longleaf pine preserve with her husband and chocolate Lab, where she blogs regularly at Switched At Birth.

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