Brother Jim is fiddling change in his pocket. Clinkety-clink and over again. Stops sudden and embarrassed. Shifts himself back in his seat. Sister Beth took it hard, but not hardest. That would be Auntie Louise.

Sun going back in its skypocket, just like it does every night. Same way we thought of our Mama. Force of habit, someone might say.

Father out back in the earthdig. Like he’s planting begonias.  Like it’s just another dog day of scratching up holes.

No one wants to be the first. First one to speak it, owns it. Brought it and gave it a name.

Nothing to be done but sit and sit. Perfect and still and waiting for nothing else to ever happen.

15 Comments

  1. Laurie Marshall

    I think you used the same prompt I did, the absence one? Loved this line: “Father out back in the earthdig. Like he’s planting begonias. Like it’s just another dog day of scratching up holes.” 🙂

  2. Constance Malloy

    Francine,
    You never disappoint. “No one wants to be the first. First one to speak it, owns it. Brought it and gave it a name.” I enjoy the rhythm of this line. The whole piece, from the format to its rhythm, makes me think of walking down stairs. And, of course, the denial hidden in the spaces between feels deep and dark. I would love to hear this read with a nice southern drawl.

  3. Meg Tuite

    Francine! OH so many gorgeous lines! “Sun going back in its skypocket, just like it does every night. Same way we thought of our Mama. Force of habit, someone might say.” LOVE THIS! Thought this would be a kickass first paragraph. Go with the gusto!
    I have to say I LOVE LOVE all but the first paragraph. Anyway, you can work with the last three? They are outstanding!
    LOVE, Meg

    • Francine Witte

      That’s a really great edit, Meg. I’m thinking I might put the first paragraph second. Or maybe lose it. But you are right that it doesn’t need to be first. Thanks so much.

  4. Al Kratz

    This is great example of the language doing so much extra work so efficiently. Classic Francine poetry too. Very haunting what these all imply beyond the immediately known story. Nothing to be done here doing double duty as something has obviously been done and might be done for good.

  5. sara lippmann

    Hi Francine, I love how the weight of this story hinges on the “it” — all that is implicit. (First one to speak it, owns it — that voice is so good.) And I love the way you choose to express unspeakable loss through flatness and restraint, and how that flatness play against startling word choice like skypocket and gardendig — poetic, yes, and signaling the age of this narrator. You capture the stasis, the waiting, the claustrophobia so well in so few words. I do wonder about the word nothing three times in a piece this short. I love the title and I love the last part “nothing to ever happen again” — the negation of such magnitude! — but I’m not sure about the title appearing in the text, which I know is often done. Something to think about for all of us, in general — not to step on our own best lines. When does repetition increase and when does it decrease potency? Is there another beat?

  6. John Steines

    Hello Francine. You so precisely draw us into a situation so easy to recognize, even though so little is there beyond the avoidance. I love how you’ve done it. I feel so much tension in this ‘sitting, waiting’: ‘Nothing to be done but sit and sit. Perfect and still and waiting for nothing else to ever happen.’ I loved the embarrassment post ‘clickety-clack’. Been there. All feels like late spring/early summer for some reason. Interesting that ‘dog day’ doesn’t make me think of August.

  7. Melanie Haws

    “Sun going back in its skypocket, just like it does every night.” Great line!
    Wonderful rhythm to this piece when read aloud (which I did, as it begged for it).

  8. Nancy Stohlman

    So lovely, Francine! So much tension just gurgling right under the surface, here. So gloriously awkward…with no reprieve. I feel like the story continues right off the page and into all the space around the page…..xoxo

  9. Kate Gehan

    I adore how visceral this is without us knowing what “it” is. Jingling pocketchange, sweaty earthdig, the imagined smell of begonias. Mother goes back into her skypocket, force of habit. Everyone’s right about the power of the poetic language and the forceful rhythm–it works so well. I sort of want more descriptors of sister Beth and Auntie Louise to enhance the superlatives.

  10. April Bradley

    Francine, this is brilliant, so good it aches. The language works so hard and knocks me over and yet seems effortless. The skypocket! The change. The tension and everything that is wrong and hard to take. Stunning.

  11. Patricia Bidar

    A marvel of economy! We readers stand in the full pocket of silence this family inhabits. You did such a great job of showing us grief in all its awkwardness.

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