Hobble Creek Review
Lake Summit’s the Green River dammed.
The map shows the fine blue thread of it
thickening, meandering in paisleys and part-circles
from west to east, shows Lake Summit Road
stretching from the north, Fishing Rock Cove Road
curving with the shoreline, shows the railroad tracks
crossing the lake at its northern tip, just past
of the dam. This is our part of the lake, a basin,
pool in the northeast corner, shining green-black
below the bank behind the stone house,
a doublewide trailer my grandfather frosted
with cement, then studded with granite. The trestle
crosses the lake in front of us, a horizon line.
Fishing Rock Cove is straight below us.
The dam marks off its boundary to the left,
or left, at least, from where we stand,
in the cut grass at the bank’s edge, looking down,
watching the passing boats make waves that splash
the diving board. We play horses while we wait
for someone to take us swimming. Mandy is a horse,
and gallops, makes hoof-noises with her mouth.
Her mane’s caught in a loose braid that will fly
out behind her when she jumps in later.
We’ll make her jump in first to scare the fish.
176 twists up the mountain, past apple packing plants
and roadside cider stands, levels off in Saluda,
snakes toward Tuxedo. Left on Lake Summit Road,
left onto the driveway we all keep going back to.
It rises gently to the house, past the stables that held
Mandy’s horses, past the muscadine-covered chimney
that marks where the old house stood, past
my great-grandmother’s trailer, her zinnias
still scattered through the clover,
past my grandfather’s last crafts, plywood silhouettes
of black bears, airplanes made from Diet Pepsi cans,
tree stumps sanded and shellacked to stubby stools.
Beyond the driveway, what was the garden waits
under August sun: a few volunteer bean patches,
a scattering of scorched corn stalks, crow-picked
blueberry bushes, a soft watermelon,
fragrant in the silent midday heat.
Anything that would burn, and some things that wouldn’t:
sheets, queen- and king-sized, bedspreads,
down-filled comforters, fifteen pillows
molded from storage, cracked leather suitcases,
purses of all sizes, socks in their original packages,
plastic dishes, wool scarves and gloves,
straw hats for the garden, church hats
adorned with fake nests and cardinals, worn-out
overalls and workboots, brand new shoelaces,
refrigerator magnets (a smiling Florida orange,
Have you taken your insulin today?),
a stack of old Farmer’s Almanac calendars.
A complete set of Green Stamp silverware.
Maternity dresses embroidered with daisies,
stuffed animals, plush or tattered puppies and bunnies,
a talking bear with its batteries, a tea set meant
for a dollhouse, hairbrushes, a pair of crutches,
combs with broken teeth, feather dusters, the rags
of old tee-shirts, a shadeless bedside lamp,
a box of lace curtains. Seventy-seven
paperback romances: my sister said
she counted them, threw them in one at a time.
The fire burned long after the last sunset.
They had three days to leave. They had
to go inside, everyone had headaches,
they couldn’t even stand there and watch it.
Family secrets: (1) my uncle the fire chief burning brush
in the pasture (for what reason we’d ponder later; he wasn’t
even supposed to be there, but (2) all of us kept coming back—
whoever’d bought the house only stayed on the weekends,
so weekdays the sisters stole blueberries,
brought the cousins to swim, my grandfather weeded the garden,
planted secret corn) (3) saw his fire jump the road and spread
to the woods where that very day a psychic hired
by Unsolved Mysteries would try to see something
about the triple murder that happened there in 1966
(three bodies cut up and left in a shape some said
was a pentagram, some said was random). (4) My aunts
and their boyfriends parked in those woods before
curfew. My aunt, teen-aged, in an olive Chevy;
the baby born early, the night (5) I ate a bottle of baby aspirin,
pill by orange pill. I was standing in the Emergency Room
crying, refusing to drink the ipecac as he died (tiger
lilies on his tiny plot). After the funeral Mandy
(6) whispered about her mother’s sister, who we sat beside,
she stinks, and someone heard and said I said it. (7)
The bedspread, midnight, counting quarters for bail money
(it was navy, had a starchy, almost vinyl feel; the coins
shone on it, sorted in hills of five dollars). Sister by sister
had come, bearing (8) now unhidden pickle jars to share.
(9) My father was in jail, had been served a warrant
for communicating threats, even though it was my mother
who threatened her brother’s wife. (10) Years later I realized
they thought I really had said it. (11) It is a fact that
the crime scene was used as a garbage dump
by some local residents, and many objects can still be found
at the site. The site was not visited by the crew or stars
of the television show, since there was a brush fire
there the day of the filming. They asked him:
how could a fire chief lose hold of a fire like that?
And what he knew of the triple murder. He said,
I was twelve when it happened. (12)
Moss-covered stones, their edges worn
to curves, uneven stairsteps webbed
with sun and summer leaves’ lacework patterns.
Climbing down, we breathe the lakescent:
melon or cucumber, snakes,
my great-grandmother says, raising her chin,
looking quick to left and to right; it smells like snakes—
summer harvest, early morning,
my grandmother, great-grandmother,
the kitchen table, slice and snap, damp faces
in the fanwhir. At noon I crouch in the crop rows,
eat a raw ear of corn, stalkshadow
striping my legs. Later, in twilight,
the long, low whistle: night train
on the trestle. Moonshudder
in the water. They’re calling me back
to the porch now, handing out crescents
of cantaloupe, icy chunks of salted watermelon.
When our parents were speaking
again, we rode Mandy’s horses
from Fishing Rock Cove to the dam.
She made our horses run.
Just to the west,
my left, the water
sparkled in patches, flashed
between the blur of branches
and red dirt sloping down to the lake.
She made our horses jump through hoops of flames
(In the small splashes
of fire I saw
like a house,
a shape like a hand
row of knives,
They kept carrying
things to it,
throwing things in it:
silk flowers they’d bought to put on graves,
the ones for people already
dead, the ones who would be
eventually. Anything that would
burn. So many suitcases, no one knew why
they had so many suitcases—
and the clothes— bathrobes, bright-hued dresses
of satin and taffeta, dozens of frilled socks,
polyester pantsuits like the ones
my great-grandmother used to wear,
blue jeans too old or not old enough to suit
any grandchild’s taste. They got
headaches from the smoke. They had three days
to leave. The old house was sold, the new house
was full already, truckload after truckload
had been taken to Goodwill—
my grandmother said, where are all
my purses—they never traveled—
why had they
bought so many—
where are all my
My grandfather calls us up to see the Lake Summit movie,
which we think is going to be a documentary but is really
a home video: a few seconds of six-year-old me
with water wings on my arms saying Mama, watch
and jumping off the diving board, then almost
forty minutes of my grandfather recording the shoreline
while my grandmother steers the boat. She never learned
to drive a car and she is nervous; she keeps saying
A boat’s a-comin’ and the tape clicks to static
while my grandfather takes over. Or he forgets to turn it off
and the picture turns to water, the camera waiting on its side,
the small, pine-colored waves flashing, shimmering
in the sunlight of mid-evening, once five full minutes
of just water, little splashes, reaching up and falling.
It makes its own pictures when you watch it that long,
like looking at clouds, or the eye finds pictures in it.
You can hear it lapping the boat’s sides.
Kimberly O'Connor is a North Carolina native who now lives in
Denver. She earned an MFA in poetry from the University of Maryland,
where she was won both the 2009 Academy of American Poetry
student prize and the 2009 AWP Intro to Journals contest. Her poems
have appeared or are forthcoming in Appalachian Review, Colorado
Review, Copper Nickel, Hayden's Ferry Review, The South Carolina
Review, storySouth, and elsewhere.