Mary A. Koncel: Three Prose Poems
Sideswiping the Pig | Black Flies | Something Like the Earth
Sideswiping the Pig
It's always the pig. Not the goat, the black-bellied heifer with her wobbly calf, or the chickens with frost bitten toes. No, it's the pig running down the middle of the road, squealing those high-pitched obscenities, dust rising off its cloven hooves, and close behind, the farmer yelling back, I'll kill you, you son of a bitch. Of course, you stop. Imagine, though, if you didn't. Imagine that you swerved, fishtailing across the road, two wheels in the gully then out and still you kept on driving. Imagine you had a daughter, Bridget or Athena, and she's covering her big bright eyes with her hands, jamming her feet into the floor, and screaming that she wished you weren't her mother because you wear ugly brown shoes, because you always drive too fast and now you've hit that pig, that poor, poor pig. A few hours ago, you were napping, sunlight cresting over your body, and now you're trying to convince her, your Bridget or Athena, the pig is safe, you only grazed it, a little bump on the shoulder, that's all.
Morning and already a flutter of Why's. Why onion bagels? Why a loose right turn onto Route 66 and black flies thumping my windshield? And why is a man dressed like a chicken standing in the Big E parking lot, holding a sign that says Why?
Traffic is thick. It's April. Time to change the subject. So I nurse my clutch and think about the runaway hot dog cart in New York City that hit a flagpole and snapped it in two.
But here they come again. Small, unfettered like those black flies. Why a hot dog cart and no one in the parting crowd yelling, Save yourself, Save yourself? Why poor Mrs. Denkoff? Why her moment of calm before her empty T-strap pumps and final awe?
A school bus stutters through the intersection. The man dressed like a chicken flaps a crooked wing, waves the sign above his head. A red rubber head, bright yellow feathers, and sleepy, long-mouthed children craning outside their windows.
I blow my horn. Not for Mrs. Denkoff or hot dog carts in New York City. Not for a look, an approving gesture from the man with chicken feet and morning stubble. In this minute, there's a black fly, maybe two, buzzing my rearview mirror, and I won't ask why. Call it salvation. Call it my moment of calm.
Something Like the Earth
In corn country, we watch the corn grow. A simple task, and tomorrow will be no different. Sitting, we reshuffle our ankles, nod toward the field, each row delicately parted.
We know how to live, what to expect from a bare summer breeze, when to relish that sullen growth. Once, in the back-forty, lured from a Flat Bed Chevy, a boy and girl tangled, rubbed themselves in root and broken stalk. He turned whispering. She tugged loose her braid. And then the muffled rapture.
It always comes back to corn.
We've learned our lessons well. Respect the dirt, the sun and rain. Respect the seed and the farmer rising from morning sheets, arms stretched, broad chest already heaving with the promise of sweat and sudden ache.
Outside, on a crook of oak limbs, crows perch, heads turned in their well-fastened hoods. Sometimes they rustle, wings burning under a dazed sun, before the farmer empties his cup and laces each boot.
Mary A. Koncel is a long-time devotee of the prose poem. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including The Massachusetts Review, Denver Quarterly, The Journal, Sycamore Review, The Prose Poem: An International Journal, The Party Train: A Collection of North American Prose Poetry, and The Best of the Prose Poem: An International Journal. She was a recipient of a fellowship in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. In 1999, Quale Press published her chapbook, Closer to Day. Her full-length collection of prose poems, You Can Tell the Horse Anything, is forthcoming from Tupelo Press. She lives in Worthington, MA, with her husband and many animals, small and large. In addition to writing prose poems and essays, she is an avid dressage rider.