No Plans Come to Mind

We ate an enormous meal together. All of us, in the old farmhouse near Ontario’s shores, eating and talking and not talking, and laughing really loud. We are loud. Half of us have a hard time hearing, which makes it louder.

*

There were four roasted free range turkeys, two kinds of stuffing, 20lbs of mashed potatoes; tossed green salad, fresh cranberry sauce, Josephine’s black cherry Jello with mandarin oranges; Hawaiian butter rolls, and six homemade pies. What am I forgetting? Oh, of course, Brussels sprouts with pine nuts.

*

My family drifts in and out of Thanksgiving’s fog, wanting to comfort each other, without saying a word. Yet, Kiira’s photographs left on the sideboard, on the table, next to the piano speak to us all. Her eyes’ steady gaze hooks our attention as if we were the only ones in the room. In this held moment, we know her smile, her ease sidling alongside someone she loves, and we think of her voice, her laugh, in rooms of the past—these dreams that bind us to transient things. We remember her. We want to say something to her mother, who is our sister. We start and stop short—a queasy string of words hangs in the air.

*

Wishbones hang to dry in a tall glass on the kitchen sill. Bones of life—wishes caught between earth and sky— I say pull with your mind’s teeth rather than fingertips and take what is wild and unfamiliar. This wish is at your command.

*

My wish is to return to the narrow streets of Geraci Siculo, the medieval fortress town that sits high on a mountain, overlooking a valley full of fields and orchards, lush and green. I want to retrace our steps climbing up, up, up the ancient stone passage to the town square where the bells were ringing for afternoon mass in Santo Stefano, and I was holding Kiira’s hand in our quick ascent— each of us taking giant steps without being caught out of breath—amazed at our mutual strength, we made it seem effortless—the way we arrived at the summit—bright and buoyant, giddy with triumph.

*

My family’s wish is to make sense of this past year. What time do we have left to argue about life hiding beneath our words? How do we see the silhouette of birch trees bending in wind, like us leaning closer and closer ? Which one of us will say, life goes on?

*

It’s not easy living at a distance.

M. J. Iuppa is the Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor Program and Lecturer in Creative Writing at St. John Fisher College, and since 2000 to present, is a part-time lecturer in Creative Writing at The College at Brockport. Since 1986, she has been a teaching artist, working with students, K-12, in Rochester, NY, and surrounding area. Most recently, she was awarded the New York State Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching, 2017. She has four full-length poetry collections, This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017), Small Worlds Floating (Cherry Grove Collections, 2016), Within Reach (Cherry Grove Collections, 2010) and Night Traveler (Foothills Publishing, 2003), and 5 chapbooks. She lives on a small farm in Hamlin, NY.

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2 Responses to No Plans Come to Mind

  1. Joanne Iuppa Hayden says:

    Thank you, Mary Jo, for sharing this. My heart still aches over the family’s loss and her suffering. Joanne

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