She sits on an upside down bucket in the fruit cellar in the dark. Cobwebs dangle in still air before her. The suggestion of a filmy thread glancing against her cheek makes her shiver. She knows she isn’t alone; spiders watch from their corners. She doesn’t blink.
Above her, floorboards creak beneath the weight of footsteps, searching room to room. They are arguing about the iron gate that leads out back. It was left ajar again. She stares at her grubby hands. Flecks of paint stuck to her palms’ lifelines glitter. She spits onto her hands and scrubs her palms against her shirt, leaving obvious smears. She wasn’t where she was supposed to be.
Out back, beyond the barn and overgrown honeysuckle, beyond earshot was the cemetery. There, she found her spot beneath an ancient willow, whose leafy branches were long braids that nearly touched the sandy ground. She could press her back against its trunk and feel the wind tremble ever-so-slightly. It lifted her to be there among the dead. She forgot to close the gate.
The black and white chickens followed her into the cemetery. She watched them discover what she wanted to hide. Such a guilty thing, she worried they would find what she prized the most—a piece of rose quartz, a gold thimble, a blue feather, a map. She shooed them away, inches from the infant’s unmarked grave.
She doesn’t blink, listening to their calls. She leans forward and grabs the first jar of apricot jam sitting on the shelf, then rises quietly, up the unfinished stairs, pausing for a moment at the door left open a crack. Her gray eyes adjust to the light as she pushes the door open. They hear her, but don’t think much. She sets the jar on the kitchen table without a word, and waits. They look past her.
The past, she thinks, is hardly the time it takes to move forward, or back; inside or ahead of its evolving story. She saved her truth in the cemetery’s packed earth. She knows what they did. Not every dream is an escape.
M.J. Iuppa lives on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Between Worlds is her most recent chapbook, featuring lyric essays, flash fiction and prose poems (Foothills Publishing, 2013). Recent poems, flash fictions, and essays in When Women Waken, Poppy Road Review, Wild: A Quarterly, Eunoia Review, Andrea Reads America, Canto, Grey Sparrow Journal, The Poetry Storehouse, Avocet, Right Hand Pointing, Tiny-lights, The Lake (U.K.), The Kentucky Review, and more. She is the Writer-in-Residence and Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor Program at St. John Fisher College. You can follow her musings on writing and creative sustainability on Red Rooster Farm on mjiuppa.blogspot.com.