Thirty Years Times Three Thousand Miles from the Summer of Peroxide Hair

BY Robert Hill Long


Still too early in the year, too far north, to sit bare-legged outdoors for long. But being this close to the forsythia’s yellow flames helps. Beneath the red maple’s ten thousand flamelets. Even my hair, which years ago turned to old iron in the shaving mirror, I can almost feel lightening, yellowing, in the light wind’s fingering.  It’s the way my dog enters some temporary heaven through the simplicity of my fingers rubbing the bone between her eyes, scratching her iron-whiskered muzzle. This close to the forsythia, other pleasures loom: lime froth of the willow above the iron vein of the river; copper flashing of my neighbor’s slate-roofed barn shining through the hemlocks. 

Later today, the hemlocks will stand out. They store night in their black greens, and release its sharp dark resins all afternoon. But for now, the pleasure of this solar yellow focused into one immense bush, flames that do not warm my legs but light them. Burnishing the fine hairs. As though preserving some way that I may walk in my wife’s remembering, an ambient light in the garden, on brick paths I laid, picking snow peas, picking asparagus.


In a week, if I want this flame-yellow, I’ll have to find it in the handle of my daughter’s tiny hairbrush, or a toy truck lying under the hemlocks, where my son abandoned it last summer when he finally grew sick of toys. By summer, the forsythia-yellow will have passed into hemlock pollen; by September, into the sulfur butterflies I used to see on the last good days of the beach season, in a stiffening wind above the waves, blown southerly toward nothing a boy with chemical-yellow hair wanted to understand. 

Here, it’s already noon: look up from this page and there are the clouds we have not kept waiting. They are not coming for us; they will never leave us. Still, they’re moving; they are the way the wind moves time, when it has been suspended long enough, into a kind of review—as though the past, too, lifts and lightens when it evaporates, and keeps expanding, brightening on its way toward the vanishing point.


Robert Hill Long's flash fiction and prose poetry has appeared in The Best of the Prose Poem, Sentence, Kenyon Review, Poetry East, Manoa, Norton's 1992 edition Flash Fiction and many other journals.