The 2River View 28.2 (Winter 2024)

Dawn Terpstra

Ghost Town

A mile off the highway, wooden bones of a dry goods store, service station, Grange Hall, a stone church—boarded up. Without resurrection. At the heart of Main Street, I’m still nowhere. Except for that dream where you take my hand and we walk a dirt road past an abandoned apple orchard at the edge of town. Once, you found a cardboard box when I wanted to gather the drops. Golden-red fruit bruised and worm-holed—windfall of flesh. From a memory somewhere inside a house down this road, candlelight sparks with a sudden wind. A room draped in silk shadow, emeralds for my throat, cinnamon on my tongue, your body and mine. Weeks of loving inside walls abandoned by time. Now, a reliquary. A penance. 

I’m new to vast regret. Mourning litters the ground like fruit from a tree I once loved. How I long to plant Bells of Ireland on your grave, the color of our wild eyes. To witness the bloom one more time. Even now. After all the letting go.  

Elegy with Alports Syndrome

California was on fire when you reached the top of Half Dome. Face grinning against a stone-gray sky. Spinning plaited smoke clouds. Sheer rock face behind you. Chain ladder pointed up into ash. I feel it from a picture on my bookcase. Do you remember as a boy how we slipped up trails, grabbed at scrub juniper, found rough-edged handholds on our way up mountain trails?
Vanquishing fear like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, you never looked down.

          hazel eyes,
          pack on your back like a shell—
          I felt your climb

Headlamps illuminated your movements at 3 a.m. Cold mountain ascent. A trail of fireflies flickering a slow rise. I felt scrapes on your knees and elbows. The invisible grit layered on your dry lips. A red-tailed hawk circled and cried with the ashy-morning wind.

          clouded sulphers crawl
          mountain meadows—
          where are the bees?

After your summit, we discovered a part of you was dying. Your kidneys and hearing—rotting from the inside like a weather-weary tree ready to crumble. A broken seed planted in your genetic code before you were born. Vanquishing fear would lead you home to the Midwest. Mana of place and season, nectar and pollen of familiar flowers and trees. Twice each summer we gather the frames. Gently brush away bees. Spinning and spinning through afternoons extracting gold-sweetness, medicine, to sustain you another season.

          hands that rocked your cradle—
          your baby

Dawn Terpstra is a poet and beekeeper in Iowa. Her work has been published in Midwest Quarterly, Quartet, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. She is an MFA student in creative writing at Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop, as well as the Poetry Editor of River Heron Review. (website)
<<Sadie Shorr-Parks Kathryn Weld >>
Copyright 2River. Please do not use or reproduce without permission.