They’re the riddle in my garden What has eyes but cannot see? Like a stone, they fit my hand as I turn their other cheek. With love but no regrets, I mash them into mounds or whip them, scallop them, dice them for rivel soup. Cancer could not lessen Dad’s affection for them fried. He tells how they clustered like sleigh bells in the sand where nothing else but winter squash and zucchini thrived. His mother, Fannie Mishler, fixed them for every meal like some cultures live on rice. My son-in-law from St. Louis splashes hot sauce on their skin, but I fancy even their pockmarked faces that shrivel as they age.
That’s what’s left of it— six safety pins from a chain I once wore beneath my dress to Saylor’s School and Forks Mennonite Church. Who’d suspect vanity in a girl so shy she seldom spoke? I liked how each pin clicked shut to link to the next and how they encircled me like a charm of daisies I counted round and round. Some would have said that was a sin. The same folks who’d pocket a shiny buckeye against the ache of rheumatism. I took my necklace off when I joined my life with Pete’s. I needed pins for diapers, school notes, lost buttons, loose straps— catastrophes only the quick clasp of hidden silver fixed.
It begins in a cow lane with bees and white clover, courses along corn, picks up tempo against rocks. It rises to a teetering pitch as I cross a shaky tree-bridge, syncopates a riff over the dissonance of trash—derelict ice box with a missing door, mohair loveseat sinking into thistle. It winds through green adder's mouth, faint as the bells of Holsteins turning home. Blue shadows lengthen, but the undertow of a harmony pulls me on through raspy Joe-pye-weed and staccato-barbed fence. The creek hums in a culvert beneath cars, then empties into a river that flows oboe-deep past Indian dance ground, waterwheel and town, past the bleached stones in the churchyard, past the darkening hill.