They’d Come Out After the Rain

At eight I vowed I would save the world, though

I couldn’t have said from what. Maybe the sadness

I felt, sitting on a concrete walk as shattered

as a battered apple pie outside my grandparents’

summer house in the Catskills. Salamanders,

ordinarily my friends, hid in the heat, we’d lost

pieces to every puzzle in the house, and I’d read

every book, pressing together torn pages

and guessing at what the missing ones contained.

My grandmother yanked weeds, bent like a scythe

over wild grass as tall as her knees and cut it

with giant clippers, careful to avoid the sharp rocks

that decorated the crumbling soil. She’d started the day

spreading jam on rye for me in a boxy kitchen, its

single pair of curtains drawn, the air as stale

as the day before, and grandmother still wearing

her ruffled sleeping cap over hair set like cotton candy.

You never see those caps anymore. They disappeared

like the salamanders, like my grandmother, like that house. 

R.L. Maizes’s novel, Other Peoples Pets (Celadon Books, Macmillan), won the 2021 Colorado Book Award in General Fiction and was a Library Journal Best Debut of Summer/Fall 2020. She is the author of the short story collection We Love Anderson Cooper (Celadon Books). Her stories have aired on National Public Radio, and can be found in Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading and in The Best Small Fictions 2020. Maizes’s essays have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, O Magazine, and Literary Hub and have aired on NPR. Her poetry has appeared in Electric Literature and Lilith.