Erika Meitner: Inconsequential Alchemy
It’s predictable summer again, the sun frosted and glaring like a cheap
Home Depot light fixture when it actually shines on the garden center
rife with landscaping plants that nobody loves but everyone buys as yard-filler:
pachysandra, rhododendron, euonymus, groundcover along with festive pansies
in black plastic six-packs that die by mid-July. There’s no substitute for the figure
of a sunflower on a hill wilting past its stake, head drooped, body crucified.
The neighbor—the minister’s wife—tried to fill in the barren clay on the ridge
our houses share to no avail. Nothing thrives in this soil—not even the guaranteed
grass seed she bought that claims to grow on rock. But she’s out watering anyway,
her chemo crew-cut glinting silver and ambiguous. Last season she offloaded
ziplocks of heirloom tulip bulbs from her freezer, told us to put them in our yard
since she was too weak to plant them. We buried them at the requisite depth
but they never came up; instead, a scourge of Yellow Trefoil entwined with the lawn.
She gives me, this week, three jars of home-preserved beets from their congregants.
Everyone must be praying for her, so that even those beets glow fuchsia on our counter,
countering the TV’s ready-made alchemy. The local news is a strip-mall fire: remains
of an irreplaceable1950’s tricycle from the charred bike shop that had been in the family
for years. The form was recognizable, but the vehicle was literally a shadow
of itself, isometric charcoal, long and difficult. There are disruptions,
and there are disruptions. The news is always brought to us by Oakey’s Funeral Home
& Crematory, and then on Sundays we get paid programming that follows: Millenialist
news that trumpets the New World Order. Prophecies of the ages converging. Specific
details of the return, the eternal state of both the saved and the lost. These exciting
last days in which we live.