Wendy Mannis Scher
Before the First Draft
4am, the end of September when florid leaves and skin signal winter's approach. I stand outside beneath the eaves as rain sluices through gutters and watch it tumble in the house light. I see wings. Bits of luminescence, they fall aglitter against the black of what I do not see but know only to be memory of a field hedged with pines. I hear a word call to me, call like a bird whose voice I cannot name and yet long to utter. In the Heat of September afternoons, the mule deer follow the canyon trails down into town. Does and fawns with smooth brindled coats, gawk roadside, stripping leaves as bucks gather in fields, their massive antlers raised like fists against the sky. Horizon snow clouds pin the mountains, but here in the florid creek valley, thick with squirrel and jay calls, a wind riffles branches, the pages of my open notebook where leaves and needles lodge, slick with tree sap. They mark the sheets with a fragrance I will taste long after the winter snuffs out the harvest, my feverish riot of words. After the wildfire the sun collects jagged rocks that look like fists scattered in the scorched meadows. We sort the shards- glinting below our paper masks- nails from tines, gravel from glass, metamorphosed from ordinary to intimate, with edges keen enough to slice through skin, through leather. Dirt and ash gnat-swarm, and we rake with eyes averted to tokens, to autumn already kindling sentiment and aspens. After the Storm How green the morning- ribbons of grass, moss, needles freckled with stars. I hear the water wash the road, scrub it, shape it the way canyons are carved in textbooks. It is not of us, for us-this road that springs from the mountains, drawn down, down, down into crevasses we call gullies, gulches, ditches drought-dry no more. It seeps, nudges shoves and drowns, unmakes all that we've made. Shred the maps. Our roads are gone to rivers and with them, the home we thought we owned.
Wendy Mannis Scher, a graduate of the Low Residency MFA program for Creative Writing/Poetry at the University of Alaska/Anchorage, lives with her family in the foothills west of Boulder, Colorado. In addition to her writing, she works as a drug information pharmacist at a poison and drug information call center.