After the Funeral
We pushed our bicycles up to Halstaad’s Field, fallow
for years now, overrun with brambles and thistle.
Sweat soaked our clothes, too black for August amid weeks
without rain. At the hill’s crest, the farmhouse faded from view—mother
at a window somewhere, inconsolably repeating the scripture’s refrain—
and we cut across to the narrow trail we’d worked three summers carving.
It took longer than it should have to catch my breath, but when Eddie said,
“I dare you,” I mounted my bicycle and let fly. The kingdom of heaven
is like a cloudless summer sky, earth beneath it parched
and aching. I could feel Eddie gaining on me, and I pedaled
harder, veins thrumming my temples, reveling in the dust storm
we had created, coating our clothes and our faces. The kingdom is like
the forgotten field, rocks heaved to the surface by centuries of frost.
Then, the scree-strewn clearing a hairsbreadth away, which,
at the point of overtaking, the slightest clip of the handlebars
sends you toward, and over, chain sprung from its wheel, pedals
spinning a windmill fury. The kingdom of heaven is like—look, Eddie,
no hands!—rising from the saddle as though lifted, weightless, close
as I’ve been to birds when their wings are stretched in flight.
When we returned, mother wouldn’t know us, transformed
as we were by sweat and dust, beaming like children who’d never
lost a thing, who’d tasted the kingdom’s salt moments before
the yawning sky lets go to gravity, before the tumble
and burn, the elusive wisp of freedom snatched by the sear
of gravel as it enters, irrevocably, the flesh.
Kathryn Smith received her MFA from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers at Eastern Washington University, where she helped edit Willow Springs. She is a copy editor for The Spokesman-Review, a master gardener in training, and a community volunteer. Her poems have appeared in Rock and Sling, Redactions, and Third Coast. She lives in Spokane, Washington.