It’s October, when your birthday always seems to fall on the most splendid day of the year. Even if it’s a work day, you must find some time to set aside your small whirring machines and your contentions. Maybe there is a creek that all summer has been still and dry and now is wet and tumbling with tiny twigs and leaves and sweetgum balls. Maybe there is a field gone golden with weeds, with finches perched in the seedcrowns. Maybe there is an old train track that hosts no trains but lays out a whole parade route of purple thistles, or a dirt road where the close pines have set down a thick carpet for your hurting feet. Maybe there is a lake where a bald eagle sometimes fishes, and you think to see it dive, to hear its wings rise up to break its fall, to watch its yellow feet pull a sleek brown fish from the green water.
And while you are walking, keeping your eyes turned to the sky, maybe the earth will pull you back to the path, back to the toddler holding up her hands to the falling leaves; and to the floating meadow of algae the color of new grass in springtime; and to the lone frog calling with no response from the marshy backwater; and to all the sunning turtles lined up on their black logs like rosary beads; and to the crows and the bluejays conducting a bitter dispute high in the treetops; and to a young woman with a prosthetic arm sitting on a bench and telling a story with wild gesticulations while her sweetheart gazes at her, smiling, and never lifts his eyes from hers as you pass. And maybe you will see two vultures, as beautiful on the wing as any eagle, circling the sky, and all the while the leaves will be letting go of their branches and falling down on you like blessings.
Billy Renkl grew up in Homewood, AL. He attended Auburn University and the University of South Carolina, where he received an MFA in Drawing. He currently teaches drawing and illustration at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN. Billy’s collage work often features fragments of old texts and diagrams, exploring the qualities inherent in paper ephemera. See more of his work at billyrenkl.com.
Margaret Renkl grew up in Homewood, Alabama, and was educated at Auburn University and the University of South Carolina. Her poems and nonfiction have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Black Warrior Review, The New York Times, and Good Housekeeping, among others, and she serves as editor of Chapter16.org, a daily source for literary news with a Tennessee focus. She always plays hooky on her birthday.