Kelli Russell Agodon
Year of the Meteor Shower
I see fireflies instead of stars, stars instead of meteors. I suggest that as much as I adore the moon, maybe it’s too bright. You tell me the moon is slowly moving away from earth and I’ll have my darkness soon enough. It’s been sixteen years since we watched the moon rise in Mexico, watched the waitress reach for my hand and say my wedding band was a sky layered in stars. I told her it’s easy to be fooled by diamonds, by falling stars. On the flight home, I was reading a romance novel when lightning struck the plane. Meteors and honeymooners sparked over a country and the plane continued on. When I leaned in and said, I’m afraid to die, you told me the whole world has this secret. Behind us, two women began praying, asked saints to keep the plane in the air. We were not born with wings like fireflies, we’ve had to invent what holds us up. I reached for your hand hoping to land safely in Seattle and the thought of losing what we had found together flickered, or maybe, an overhead bulb needed to be replaced. Outside my window, skyscrapers brightened our descent as we headed towards the runway in a country layered with light. You whispered (and I could almost see the glimmer inside you), Too much city, not enough stars.
I begin with facts—the word Sunday
is not in the Bible.
Neither is daisy, hibiscus.
I whisper apple peels, braided vine,
passion fruit, kiwi.
The fruit fly was the first insect in space.
I pray and hear myself speaking
to ghosts. Old prayer.
I return to what I know—
2,036 nuclear bomb explosions
since World War II.
The word hummingbird
is not in the Bible.
Sometimes it’s okay to be terrified.
House spider, bumblebee.
In the shower with water
and cupped hands, I breathe in
steam, draw a rocket on foggy glass.
I pray in safety razors and blood. Honey
and 90% of plane crashes have survivors.
I speak stamens of afternoon
gardens, earthworms and their five
hearts. Keep my family safe.
Once I saw Mary on a mushroom
cloud. Old keychain. Atoms for peace.
On the other side—a saint.
Even on the clearest days,
I can’t recognize the honeysuckle from
the red plastic feeder. Still, I sip and gather.
When a Robin Hit Our Window
Death is coming,
my grandmother said between bread
and praying on her rosary. Death—
red and with beautiful wings!
—No. She locked doors,
shut windows. Death
has many keys, many ways to enter
with its thin fingers. She draped
the mirrors in black cloth. Death
first appears as a reflection.
She burned a candle near the Bible.
How could she keep death
away? She talked for hours
about her father leaving for work
and never returning. Death
drove a truck, stole things
from home. She told me
not to worry, but I saw death
as ambitious, a huge success
in completing its tasks. She
doesn’t like you
to play in the cemetery. All those
afternoons she saw me with death
and I hadn’t known.
She handed me a piece of bread
with butter, Eat this slowly, death
tends to leave
the ones with full stomachs alone.
Given Enough Blue
The clouds hide any sense of summer
while the towhees dart in and out of my neighbor’s garage.
In the background of their fluttering, a Prairie
Home Companion and the guzzle
of a weed whacker looking for work in the garden.
We have places to go today,
but we will find our ripped jeans, our gloves
and begin taking back the yard that the morning
glory has tried to steal, the blackberry bushes
with their painful stretch.
At noon we listen to the Vinyl Café
and eat quesadillas, drink Coronas and lime.
We eat quesadillas and talk
about what’s wrong in the world—the weather
with its heavy hand, the broken hearts of government,
the price of everything, up, up, up.
When the clouds open to small patch of blue,
I remember Mary from South Carolina saying
the sun would come out if there was enough sky
to knit a kitten a sweater.
The cats are warm these days and we sit on the porch
of a garden, with the tulips bowing out
for the season and the forget-me-knots appearing
ladybug after ladybug arriving on their petals
as if to focus my attention on the little things,
on the parts of the garden that are doing fine.
When I said there must be another way,
she said sunrise is sunrise is sunrise.
She said wait. She said stop.
When I said I’ve never understood the truth,
she said listen to Starshine, Supertramp.
She said there are a million of us who fear
being average, all singing in the shower,
all making acceptance speeches with a hairbrush.
What she didn’t say was never.
What she didn’t say was melody.
Thankful curbstone. Russian thistle
growing through the fence.
There must be another way
to say sunrise never equals itself,
and truth depends on a moment.
I have waited for people
who never came back, old boyfriends
who promised to return.
I have stopped believing in doorbells,
in the scent of homecoming.
I stopped believing there must be another way,
that technology = better.
Each morning she read me my horoscope.
What mine didn’t say:
There’s a Grammy with your name on it.
There’s a curbstone that trusts your butt.
And the faces that never returned?
They’re quiet, but think of us often.
Kelli Russell Agodon is the author of Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room (White Pine Press, 2010), Small Knots (2004) and Geography, winner of the 2003 Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award. She was born and raised in Seattle and educated at the University of Washington and Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writers Workshop where she received her MFA in creative writing.
Her work has been appeared in literary magazines and anthologies such as the Atlantic Monthly, Prairie Schooner, Notre Dame Review, North American Review, Image, 5 a.m, Meridian, Crab Orchard Review, Calyx, The Seattle Review, Poets Against the War edited by Sam Hamill, as well as on NPR’s “The Writer’s Almanac” with Garrison Keillor and in Keillor’s second anthology, Good Poems for Hard Times (Viking Press).
Currently, Kelli lives in a seaside community in the Northwest with her family. She is the co-editor of Seattle’s literary journal, Crab Creek Review. Year of the Meteor Shower and Said Prayer are from her book, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room. Visit her website.