There Was Something That We Did in Jackson

Summer, 2001 / No. 5

Something about the town itself.

(Its size maybe? The bend in the road?)

A game that your father taught us

(Perhaps I’ve filed it away with his familiar jokes

and tips for identifying changes in weather)

to, at best, find good luck or, at least, avoid bad.

We treated our faith in superstition

much as we did Catholicism.

It was best to play along, to not risk

missing the wish or the blessing.

It required more than simple ritual, though.

(You were especially fond of elaborate scavenger hunts

involving me dressing as an orphan and asking strangers

for pens.)

It called for trust in the sleight of hand.

We filled each day with twists, obstacles

only the other could overcome.

Thoughts we finished out of turn.

A high-pitched giggle, the snort, my hand on your arm while

doubled over. We stop whenever the laughter demands.

You remind me to take deep breaths.

(If you close your eyes, no one can see you.)

Are you passing on these secrets to your children?

Sharing the language that I’ve misplaced.

When did I stop limping through malls, speaking

in pig latin, believing in life after death?

Thumb on car window, feet off the floor

make a wish as we cross the railway tracks.

If we spoke today, would it all come back?

Would I be up to the challenge?

To see who could hold their breath the longest

as we pass through Jackson.

Kathleen Olmstead lives in Sussex-Ulster. She has made films. She has written books that can (hopefully) be found in the Young Adult section of your local bookstore. She has contributed to the magazine since 1999. Last updated summer, 2007.