Mountains by Caitlin Dicus

The family is playing hearts,
And I am biding time,
Biding time before we leave one another.
Before we return to our own kitchens and sofas
Seemingly sitting in park or in neutral
Only to wait for the next Sunday
When my grandmother will do battle again
As I silently wish to myself
That she’d wave the white flag on the fight.

Gallantly she wages an endless war against filth.
It accumulates across the garish maroon linoleum in
Tiny man-made mountains of dirt that snake
Around thin rivers of spilled water left behind
By the thinner pink tongue of my coonhound.

But each time the landscape disappears,
My heart aches for your tiny world that has been swept away
I wish she’d allow the mountains and valleys,
Palm-sized and beautiful, to stay where they were,
Right where your muddy steel toes left them.

It’s always like this on Sundays
When you’ve spent all day outside changing my oil,
Painting the Thunderbird,
And getting a Sunfire ready to sell.
I know you’ll come in later
With a fresh sheen of sweat
That makes your face glint in the sinking sun.
Your grease-stained fingers will pinch the bill of your hat
And hold it in your hand as the back of your arm grazes your forehead.

New scuffs and rips have piled up on your jeans,
To match the small white circle
Worn into the back right pocket–but
You’d expect nothing less from a long Sunday
That ends in a hand of pepper always
With your niece as your partner.

So each Sunday I will bide my time
Until your tinkering is through.
Because I’d never dream
Of having a clean-shaven pepper partner
Who didn’t smell slightly of earth
Like you, a maker of mountains.

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