Worm Season

In early spring, the ground moves.
I take the dog out behind the garage, and she
freezes, lock-kneed, paws akimbo. The leaves
animate; if you’re quiet, there’s a muscular
rustling.

*

It’s 1987; I’m eleven. I’m laying in the way-back of the van, reading
by flashlight. My two brothers are asleep, splayed across the bench
seat, and my parents are talking –quietly. I haven’t been able to sleep.

In June, a girl-woman disappeared; they found her in the woods, chained
to a tree. In July, a schoolteacher disappeared: they found her in the woods. In
July, a mother of two disappeared –her kids at home, a basket of wet
laundry. They found her the next morning.

All I remember
were women chained to trees. I’d been reading
things I shouldn’t.

They were talking, low. My father
said, “I told her they caught him.” He said, “the cops think there was more
than one guy –”

“You didn’t tell her that, did you?” asked my mother. “No,” my father
said, “but it looks like a copycat.”

*

I wake up with a sick stomach –agita. I dream I’ve been eating
sauerkraut. Each time you open the freezer, go outside
for a smoke, I’m awake, hoping you’ll come to bed.

The worms are huge: big around as a finger, at least half a foot
long. Beware bare feet, or even flip-flops, sandals. If you stand
very still, leaves and skin whisk past.

It’s the sound of the ice into the glass that does it. Open freezer, hand in ice
bin, two or three cubes percuss. (I don’t need to listen
for the cupboard door, the sound of threaded plastic turning.) For the first time, I think:

*

The story is that behind the garage was the outhouse for the original homestead. Paradise.

The story is that murder one and three were unrelated; The story is

my father & mother worried about me. They told me a story, then undid it, unknowingly.

*

The girl-woman’s body was found in “the pines” –where the rural kids go to drink, and make out, and try to be adult. The worms work their way through a yardworth’s of leaves each spring; a riot of writhing pink. This poem is a story too –only a story –. The danger of a final line is it becomes

the final line, a cage
of your own making. Tricky
stuff, this reverse
incarnation.