He lets the shade fall back. As a boy, he heard his mother rocking and rocking in the sleepless mountain night. He would pull himself over his window ledge, the summer moon casting silver between the trees, and see the top of her head as she arced forward on the porch below, flypapers she’d hung from the eaves barricading her from the circling bats. “Go to sleep, Ellie,” she called when he bumped against the window frame.
Even now he can smell her bleached nightgown, white as bones, its scent as keen as Elena’s absence. He is so far from home. Decades. Eons from the son who did not follow his father into the mines of Pennsylvania, light years from the child ashamed of a father whose friends carried him home drunk. They brought him up the rocky path and banged on the door. They left him crying and sick in front of his wife and sons.
Elliott pulls on his robe. He has lost the language of his past, replaced it with words like berm and sewage lagoon, ice lens, aufeis. These are his words on a sleepless night. While his family disintegrated, they reeled through his mind and, like foot soldiers, they march through now: scarps, solifluctions, compression wave velocities, interstitial pores.