Four Miles East of Mitchell

It’s been a while. I’ve started a new thing, with some other people, most of whom I’ve never met. It’s new, so I don’t know what to say beyond: we get assignments and have one week to do them. This is the first; its home is here.

When my grandmother became a widow at the age of twenty-three, she had three kids under the age of six. My mom was the eldest of these, and her father’s death so traumatized her that it became the defining event of her life.

I didn’t verify the circumstances of his death until after I had finished the assignment. It was more gruesome than I had remembered.

The photo is of the pearls that my grandfather gave my grandmother when she was 17. They were a wedding present. To me, their extreme youth has always been the defining element of the story.

There’s been an accident is how it starts
in my mind, a cliche is never a good way
to open, but how else
to begin a conversation that ends

your husband is dead. It was the log truck’s fault
faulty manufacturing, that is why
you are a widow at twenty-three. Was he crushed,
were his insides on the asphalt?
These are questions you can’t ask

so far after the fact. I think it was sudden
I think there were guts or his spine
snapped and it was over like that, faster
even than old, old pine trees

slip loose from their winched chains
tumbling slowly, bouncing gently
coming to rest, silent, naked
splayed across two lanes of highway in 1958.

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