This Furniture is a Dining Room Table and a Daughter Called Mountain
J. A. Tyler
We set the table with all its accessories. We put our friends one next to another, in case they forget. Standing back we rearrange the flowers in the center. Those are the blooms in this field where the grasses are wild and rise above our shoulders. Our friends arrive two by two and we seat them accordingly. We say to them Hello and Thanks for coming and Delightful that, this bottle of wine, you are such wonderful friends. When we fight we raise our voices until no one can hear the mountain range sneaking in. I say to her That is not your fucking decision to make and she retorts, her mouth open to show all those crocodile teeth, tying a flower stem around her ring finger. We bought this table in a Kansas thrift store, cross-country when we were traveling. We strapped it upside down to the roof of my car, driving legs through rain. The tabletop was wood-weathered and I could see our little girl running her hands over its wear-out. Her giggling. Her smiling. One of our friends said We love you both but we could not say the same for each other and the fields swallowed us in their dirt. They raised a toast. We were buried in living, colliding with earthen worms like ceramic feats. When I touch her cheek in this soil she recoils, makes of her face another face, a sickened face with my fingers on her skin. There are too many S sounds under this ground, so all we hear is Sail and Sun and Slight and Saved. But there is nothing salvageable and our friends they dig fork and knife into the table. They carve their names like we ask them to, proposing messages, an early-wedding present for a wedding that we will not have because she will grow cold feet seven hundred nights before and the ring around her finger is a rotting garden. Their messages say Love is between the two of you, and we hold pretend hands on top of the table, watching them whittle out meaning. They should carve our death there too, while they are at it, since that is how we are going to go, when the knives are all finally put away. And the mountains, when they are up on us, they smile girl smiles and our friends Oooo and Aahhh then shrink to flowers. Our friends become the bouquet that she will never hold never walking down an aisle laden in a white. Our friends see that the smile that looks like a girl-smile is instead a treachery of smiling, more and more teeth in solid blood-smeared rows, that we are involved in something bigger. That in the mountains there is a new mountain, one that only rose in the last forever, our daughter, our daughter called Mountain. Mountain looks at us and our friends turned to flowers in this field, the dining room table smeared sharp with their names, the love they announce to us that Mountain never knows. Mountain only looks like the girl we would have had, would we have had her. Mountain only looks down on us. Mountain judges. And I say to Mountain, to apologize, I am so sorry that we never made the mountain that is you Mountain. But Mountain looks away at my words. Mountain seems to hate me more than any of our friends who have disappeared, who have forgotten themselves in this moment. We tried to use nameplates, to keep our friends attached to their places, but this is an infinite table set up on its edge, and the flowers always keep stemming, leaves in new ways. But Mountain’s mother doesn’t say anything to Mountain, does not even look her in the mountain-face, where birds reside on her cliff’s lip. Daughter her mother does not say. Mountain putting her mountain’s fist onto our dining room table, meticulously writing her name, M-o-u-n-t-a-i-n. Mountain is a good girl at spelling and doesn’t misplace a letter. Her treetops snow white and she is still growing. Our Mountain who will one day be a peak we can pick-axe our way up. But her mother is still not saying anything, never will, not until she reads it in a book and the book says to speak and then, at that point, the book will tell her what to say. Mountain picks a flower. Mountain looks at me as if to say something. Mountain doesn’t. Our friends who have turned to flowers turn down towards the ground, snow falling. Mountain felt it before all of us, this way of being cold. And then there was a blank light, the whiteness of snow, the ice covering her mountain-heart. Is that how it felt I ask of Mountain but she has rocks stuffed where her mountain-mouth should be and she is coughing up evergreens and curdles of dirty glacier snow. She is growing so big and we have grown so small, or not in the least, Mountain overshadowing us. Mountain scrunches up her face and there is an earthquake, and we fall down into the world, the two of us, our endless fake love a symbol of forever. This dining room table. Mountain falling asleep beneath the snow. I’m sorry I say, but Mountain does not want apologies. Mountain only wants mountain-things now, trees and rivers and rocks. Mountain only wants to see the snow fall everywhere around her. Mountain only wants to forget that she was never born.