Beth Oast Williams
for Maeve Kennedy McKean and her son Gideon
First responders find both bodies underwater,
but no mention of the ball. Textured
lines, soft rubber, make it easy to catch.
Red, it’s easy to see against the sky.
Third grade comes back to me, recess,
games in an open field. How we laughed
when Teresa’s shoe flew off. How we cheered
when Steve rounded home.
We would have chased a foul into the river,
high-fived at the luck of a nearby boat.
We would have paddled to the drifting ball,
saved it from the bay’s mounting waves,
straddled it like a flotation device
when the canoe tipped over, hugged it
like a child does a mother. Am I wrong
to wonder where the kickball blew?
A spot of red on water beacons
any head, any boat to turn. What floats
ends up still floating until it loses
all its breath, or it rides an incoming tide
and gets caught in someone’s backyard.
I respond to marsh grass waving, scan
the edge of shore for a color like blood,
a broken heart, the skyburn just before night.
Those who believe the seed
came first say the garden
grew out of a celestial hand.
They value the size of a leaf
in covering a man.
Those who think the chicken
came first know how scared
Eve was to cross the road.
She took that first step
for the rest of us, reached
out her bare arm
for what looked ripe.
Organic fruit hung
like the truth, and she picked it,
she bit it, she tried to share it.
No myth talks about the length
of her nails, how she might
have chewed them like the skin
of forbidden flesh. No myth
explains how she fastened
fresh leaves around her
waist, how she helped
Adam into man’s first
pants. I go to the grocer
and buy bananas, buy grapes,
leaving apples to those
who think Pink Ladies grew
in Eden, leave the figs
for those who prefer to hide.
Beth Oast Williams’s poetry has appeared in West Texas Literary Review, Wisconsin Review, Glass Mountain, and The Bookends Review, among others. She was nominated for the 2019 Pushcart Prize in poetry, received second place in the 2019 Poetry Matters Project, and was a semi-finalist for Poet’s Billow 2018 Atlantis Award.