From Falsework, published by Goose Lane in 2007.
I saw my mother under sedation in the Psych Ward, after she collapsed at the funeral. She foresaw the bridge disaster, but no one believed her, not even father. Her “visions” made him uneasy. He could not square them with the fundamentalism he carted all the way from Medicine Hat, husks of a not-quite-former self. These things I see, they’re not contagious, she told him. Little warnings is all. Maybe a day to take the bus, avoid stepladders. She was cutting avocados the day before it happened, her face in shadow, the skinned halves sliced thinly lengthwise, then pressed to lie pale and overlapping on the plate, neat as playing cards. A decade later I’d see terraced hillsides in Vietnam that looked like that, rice growing on man-made ledges. Round pit of the avocado an unemployed moon beside the dish rack. Cigarettes verboten in the house, though wood smoke from the cast-iron stove probably caused as much damage to our lungs. I’d wake up bilious in the middle of the night, light- headed from all the zapped brain cells. Mother’s disguise puzzled me at first, oxygen mask, I.V. tubes. Her eyelids would flicker and she’d utter nonsense syllables. Tongues, my father might have suggested, if he’d survived; she’s speaking in tongues. Out of all the gibberish, “switchbacks” was the only word I recognized. Glossalalia? Not quite. Directions, more like, how to think, to move forward without father, without Doubting Thomas, a straight line being out of the question. And that, more or less, is what we did.