William Kelley Woolfitt
Buying Snowball Pumpkins in Athens, Tennessee
My sons wrong-turn in the corn maze, then shriek at light-up skeletons, plastic bones, neon green spider webs. I’m ignoring the gnat-like hum of worry-nerves in my chest. There’s tire mountain, there’s sliding hill the boys zoom down, I’m not testing the weather, not wondering about the sun, the heat, is it mild today, yolk-yellow, not too bright, not too warm. I’m trying to look carefully, see only tractor ride, zip line, my sons at the hay jump, the pig race. Sara and Maybelle sing, when the world’s on fire, tide me over in the rock of ages. Not long ago, in the Mountain State, a hundred-year-flood: the Elk River guzzled all the rain, swallowed bridges and roads, spread trash and mud everywhere, ruined the houses of families who then had to live in campers and tents on Walgrove Road, at Blue Creek. Not long ago, the coal-washing foam that Freedom Industries spilled into the Elk, whiff of licorice in the tap water, nausea and rashes, diamond darters the spill may have wiped out. Not long ago, derecho, hard winds, no electricity on the hottest day of summer, senator from my hometown siding with fossil fuels again. I’m buying sprinkle donuts for my sons to eat on the way home, I’m not feeling buzz in my chest, lump in my stomach. Maggie Anderson says, it’s hard for a river to carve a valley, pulling toward the sea on its hands and knees. My sons ask me to name what they see out the windows: paper mill, vinyl goblins, skulls that glow. There’s Mouse Creek, crystalline stone, patch of clear sky, what might be earthly, little, still free.
is the author of several new or forthcoming books, including Ring of Earth
(short stories) and Eyes Moving Through the Dark
(essays). Website: www.williamwoolfitt.com