A Common Year

Fathers and mothers are framed in the hallway
or propped on the end table under the three-
way lamp. What gleam in their eyes, what lost
verve showing under glass, while you come home
tired, more papers under your arm than you had
a week ago. This is the casual life. Food shopping 
week-ends, one evening out, your daughter 
not doing well in school because she’s bored,
two cars huddled in the garage, weeds coming up

through the gravel driveway like the narrow
fingers of the dead. You smash them daily with
the cars. You paint the basement study and keep
the dampness away. Dig the unintended line of 
small trees out of a rain gutter. It’s all so good it’s 
hard to describe. If only your daughter would agree.  
The scuffle of two boyfriends among rhododendrons
have left torn buds at the front door, the sort of things
you step over, yawning, on your way to work.

You dream father is climbing up the side of a 
mountain, sweating, his foot snug in a small hole
in the rock face, mother sitting under an elm, 
reading one of her crime novels, gnawing
a raw carrot, and you look down to see that
your left leg has been amputated, its bandaged
stump like a stuffed stocking, the cup in your hand 
filled with a clear tea you keep swirling with a
finger, looking for a forecast, anything believable.

Saturday night is still for dinner out. Sunday for 
the drive north, the orchards, the farms, the bygone 
one-room schools where Frost is rhymed with
moss. The dullness of the afternoon perfectly  
tuned to the aftermath of a thrush’s song. To the
slide and whistle of bright-eyed beings with dark
feathered heads that only seemed to be birds.
Because the world stares. Its fixed and vivid brain
lit with the sight of you as you make your harmless turns.
John Allman | Mudlark No. 37
Contents | Angina