Reverie for The Girl at Gabe’s Bar, downtown Iowa City , where the accordian player belts out, in Anglo-Spanish, his love song
On the wall, framed, a girl in a red dress floats perpetually down the stairs, black hair masking her pale face. Descending towards the basement, one hand on the white railing. No clock on the wall. Her sister crying in the next room over. A brother in hiding. She (mistress of the dress) has crossed miles of fields without harm, past ditches plentiful with water and weeds, the body of a girl easy enough to take apart, hide.
But in late summer, do. Do step into the ditch, weeds obscuring the depth to the ground; slip over the gravel into the suck of muck til waist deep in milkweed. Wait, standing with the sculptor at the edge of his driveway, for the farmer to pass in his colt-black pickup truck, raising the dust in a typhoon wake behind him, John Deere cap, curt nod, two finger salute.
The other dozen artists sit under a blue tarp held by a silver pole swarmed with flies in the muggy dusk. When the sculptor, blue-eyed, sixty, married, hears the plan to walk into the cornfield itself and not alongside, he laughs, No. If we both disappear, you know what they’ll say.
The corn is taller than the sculptor. No. But he hesitates by your side. Thirty, thirsty, in sandals and fire-engine-red painted toenails, a white knit skirt with grooves in it like a record your sister traded you years ago. A wine purple blouse and lipstick to match. A motherless child considering mothering.
Step into the first row. The scratchy rustle of broad leaves. Absurd how the ears of corn, so full, stick out from the poles of stalks, adhered, so heavy, they should fall onto the fissured soil.
Step in. Dare glance back to blue tarp: the composer, the poet, the sculptor’s wife, laughing. If you can see them surely they can see you.
Row three. Crouch down. Don’t hurt the crop. Your brother chasing you deeper in. The leaves overlap overhead. Stay put, he warns. Choir of beating hearts. All night trembling to the rustling: wind, sister, never yet brother return to fetch you home. Soldier advancing to exact his wage. Long enough for your brother to run.
This life: waking alone. Walking alone. Memories of then drugging the cells like sunlight in the window melting feathers of frost. Finish your drink. Then hand the red dress to the little sister, waiting her turn on the stair, wanting, like you, to be wanted by the sculptor.