Illustration: earth and moon in space

After Drought

Do you remember that parched season when all the south-winging birds came back, trembling the elder leaves just outside the kitchen window? When all I wanted was to shelter them, since so many berries had burned in the weather, so much water vanished into air, into nothing, not even clouds. Meanwhile the river gasped up its unexploded memories of war, and wasps began to follow every person down the street, scenting the water in our eyes, our breath, our blood, pelting their brittle bodies against ours—lightly, lightly—unable to break us open. Such wellsprings we didn’t even know we were. Why thirst is at once both desire and lack. And then how I told you I was certain this crack in me goes all the way to the center of this planet, the veins of it reaching down and down to some molten place that knows how to flow, and fracture, and somehow still hold. How I wanted to ask if all those small birds whittling their beaks against shriveled fruit could feel it too, this filament of darkness always unreeling below them in flight, quantum kite string to tether them, to bring them someday back to earth. But you would remind me to cast off the metaphor, to endure a thing uncompared, square in painful plainness: so here it is then, that late September day, finally damp and soft with fog, when I walked home from the store and found a blackbird lying on the cobbles—a fledgling, belly up and legs curled, grey down still fluffed under new feathers, unbeating chest not yet turned dark but ever the most golden of golds. But was that what I meant to tell you? Or was it just that I missed you? Even though neither of us knows what I mean anymore—whether longed for or already lost?

Erin Calabria grew up on the edge of a field in rural Western Massachusetts and currently lives in Magdeburg, Germany. She is a co-founding editor at Empty House Press, which publishes writing about home, place, and memory. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize and was selected as a winner for The Best Small Fictions 2017. You can read more of her work in Milk Candy Review, Longleaf Review, Pithead Chapel, and other places. She tweets @erin_calabria.

Earth illustration by C.B. Auder.

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