Two from The Behaviour of Clocks
Awakened by church bells to a morning gray and silver, a morning different from all others though morning is always the same. Olive hillsides, mist. Rain chatters on the plastic corrugated cover of the deck outside our room's stone walls in a small overnight town. The narrow road curves against the hillside. Each bend reveals a home, a field, an orchard. Stucco, vine, and always stone, a landscape rolling toward the horizon and the imagined sea. In the town café, locals are gathered over coffee. Their voices drop when we enter. We order coffees, take a table in the back.
Later, the windshield wipers keep their own time. The rain stops, the morning continues and I understand how "soundless" is different from silence, how rain causes ink to bleed, how I will never be as old as these stones.
Family Album, II
* * *
My Swedish grandmother, dad's mom, is orphaned in Chicago. A childless Swedish couple from church takes her in. Grandma believes they adopt her. They do not; she works as their servant.
* * *
At sixteen, Grandma S. gets a job with Sears and Roebuck, one of their first female employees. On the other side of the family, a great-uncle receives, then sends back, a mail-order bride. Family members everywhere dream Christmas wishes, put the old Sears catalogs in their outhouses.
* * *
Grandpa S., Daddy's daddy, an auctioneer and a circuit judge, rides the county on his horse, dabbles in real estate. Bankrupt in the Depression, the family leaves Tennessee for California where Grandpa has been offered work on a family friend's ranch. Years later, I am four years old. Grandpa sits me in front of him on his horse named Dixie, calls me Sassafras.
Sally Ashton is Editor-in-Chief of DMQ Review, an online journal featuring poetry and art. These poems will appear in her forthcoming prose poem collection, to be published in April 2019, The Behaviour of Clocks. Often writing across genres, in collaboration with artists, and specializing in short prose forms, she is also author of three previous books, Some Odd Afternoon, Her Name Is Juanita, and These Metallic Days, and assistant editor of They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing. She served as Santa Clara County's Poet Laureate, from 2011 to 2013. Her honors include fellowships from Arts Council Silicon Valley and a Lucas Artist Residency at Montalvo Arts Center.