Poems by Fraser Sutherland
Art by A. Quinn
We eat nine toffees for breakfast
My cousin teaches me Japanese
at the dining table. The dog
sleeps underneath an empty
chair. It is nine in the morning.
There are nine toffees in a bowl. Kyu,
she says, and it sounds like the curling
question at the end of a bird call.
It is the morning before our grandfather’s
funeral. She is too young to remember
when he smiled. She probably remembers
the hospital, the bottles of scotch.
A fan pushes stale air
across our faces. We are both
encased in black cotton, sitting
like small shadows on the wooden
chairs. Outside, birds scatter over grass
like sunflower seeds. Ku
I say, but that is too close
Below everything the dog
stretches worn muscles. A bark.
Brown wings stitch themselves
into a cloud before fragmenting
against the sun. We move on
to the next number
and keep eyes away from the empty
chair, the pair of binoculars resting easy
against the cushion. We eat nine
toffees and spread the wrappers
in a patch of sunlight.
Open windows. My arm stretched to grab
fistfuls of air. You watch as smoke
and mountains inhale each other.
Too hot to touch, I drink your Gatorade
and fiddle with the vinyl seat cover.
Crickets. Your hand plays with the gearshift,
fingers the lighter. The shadow of a black bear
curls in yellow grass. We inch
down the highway. Below,
the river drags itself against the valley.
Swallows cellphones, a single sandal,
a child’s inflatable pool toy. The smoke
tangles itself inside the rapids.
The car is a silver stone reflected against
the water, pushed by the current. I peel
skin off plastic. Inhale the smoke,
the sun, the Gatorade. Ask why August
is the longest month.
When you don’t answer I ghost
fingers across the gearshift,
but your hand has already moved to light
a cigarette. Smoke erupts
from your lips, sinks
into my hair, the lines
of my face. We continue
down the highway.