Twisted Laurel

Before my grandfather died, he asked me to take him out into the north field. He wondered if I might be willing to walk along beside him carrying the red wooden chair from the kitchen and the bow of his fiddle. “Here, my dear.” He reached out, standing in the middle of the cornstalks bent and broken in their November grief. His gnarled hand was still just able to grasp the bow of his fiddle, the other arm too long limp to cradle what he had always called his “Sweet Darling,” so without instrument, he began to play bow upon air. First, he looked up, up, up into the sky of his boyhood, his bow running toward the blueness of it all, and then he closed his eyes, his bow dipping deeper into the weeping afternoon. Each heavy stroke rolled over the mountains shaping the coming clouds—his mother, his father, my dead grandmother all returning to listen one final time before becoming the hovering fog. And when the bow began to heave and writhe, I watched him as he buried my aunt a second time, this time digging her grave deeper with only horse hair upon wounded air. I listened as he met the Devil to face his wrongs, wrongs I could not imagine or hear in a melody suddenly gone silent. When finished, he rose without speaking, and we walked in silence until I finally summoned the courage to ask him what, if anything, he imagined as he played. “The unspeakable sorrow of crows,” is all he said, looking toward the suddenly darkened house.

Audra Coleman lives in Asheville, North Carolina where she is earning her MLAS at UNCA. She has been honored to see her work in poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction appear in WNC Woman, Mothers Always Write, The Good Mother Project, 3288 Review, and Kestrel, among other