by Kate Garklavs
Saturday: air so humid it’s green, sublime, a hum under which this static world is trapped. The siren’s call is underwater garbled and I wonder if it’s ambulance or fire truck, heartattack or blaze, yawl pealing to the farthest rustling cover of branches. Shifting canopy just a teaser of vacant air, path’s gravel an insult to my flimsy soles, fleeting auditory record of who goes here, and now. Each morning I walk the gridworks of this park — edges first, peeking toward the vibrant interior, cooler in the shadow of faux-old-growth oaks. Inward, then, wending spiralways toward the fountain that rivals Versailles: fine stonework and measured arcs of spray. If not in scale, anyway, ornateness: forethought. To think this place exists for us all at any time, anyone free to amble in, sit, stare out clear toward the opposite edge and wait for action to punctuate their view. Once, the flight of a shoeless man, khakis loose around his waist and grease stained, his left hand crooked to keep them hitched. Trailing him, a woman in a bra or swimsuit top — my distance such I couldn’t tell which — neon pink neoprene. Glare of sweat-soaked synthetic and the rush of angry pursuit. Get BACK, she yelled, BACK, her syllabic stress perfectly aligned with the sentiment. Once, a burnt-out van parked catty-corner from the fountain. It shocked me, that blackened husk, windows busted out by internal combustion; just a day before its tinted windows had glared, intact. I knew better, of course, but I couldn’t help it, drawn as I was by the muscle-deep odor of char. To stare inward was to stare into what’s left of a body: terror of upholstery seared to mere ash and the blackened steel frameworks of seats remaining. Front dash — burgundy before, now sanguine under the dusting of settled smoke — bearing a Ron Jon decal. My eye drew away from the backseat, circling everywhere but, returned to the gruesomeness it on the deepest level sought: ashy blanket rolled to conceal cargo chillingly familiar in form and heft. Surely, one would recognize the proximity of stilled flesh. Surely, an inbuilt detection of silence, new-revealed bone, void of spark where consciousness had tremored. Surely. This is the comfort I give myself with each new passing of that spot, which stood cordoned for a week’s investigation. Then, pavement hosed, it reopened, free again to bridge and tunnel picnickers. The caution tape is gone, but my mind can’t stop from retreading its former borders — an innocent geography defiled. I can’t ignore the deviant topography of tended lawn: a bump mean enough to conceal a hand, wrenched from connective ball and socket, hillock low protection of a fresh-minted corpse. From the trees, a seven years’ singing. A lone cicada’s drone can permeate a zone of one square block; a duo can buoy a neighborhood. Low and close, the keening shimmers from the canopy, hovers breathless above the grass and the artifacts of humanity it conceals.
Kate Garklavs lives and works in Portland, OR. Her work has previously appeared in Ohio Edit, Juked, Matchbook, and Tammy, among other places. She earned her MFA at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.