The Kintsugi Artist by Valerie Bacharach

The Kintsugi Artist

I’m with Ginny, hiking a trail in the Adirondack mountains,
feet cushioned by pine needles and moss, our husbands far ahead,

everything late-summer green against birch bark and granite boulders,
we’re talking about the importance of crystals and massage,

but really, I just want to be quiet in this space of moss and trees,
simply walk and listen to birds and the creaking of branches.

If I stare hard enough I can imagine Daniel Day-Lewis running through
these woods. Remember, when he played Hawkeye in “The Last of the Mohicans,”

clutching his musket, leaping over undergrowth and rocks, and that line he says
to his love “I will find you,” and Ginny grows silent,

she’s looking at me, a broken vessel webbed with fault lines
and she the Kintsugi artist who will seam me

with tree-sap lacquer and powdered gold, make my fissures beautiful
and I remember ten years ago, when we lived in a small town

and I called her, told her our younger son had died, alone in a sleazy motel room.
Opioid addiction unchecked, his story unique, and not, our grief unique, and not.

She and Brian were in the Adirondacks, they got in their car and drove
ten hours to us. Her face is the one I saw in my frenzied brain

as I spoke at his funeral, her eyes locked on mine, words forced
from my mouth. But now we’re on this trail, the air feels like a living thing,

winds ring through leaves, the sky a pattern of blue and clouds and we arrive
at an overlook, our husbands waiting in a wide open space, mountains arrayed

before us, a dawn of creation. And isn’t time a bitch, the way it slogs along
or races too fast like my mother’s heart right before she died,

wild beats pounding below fragile skin and weakened bones,
body collapsing like a deflated balloon. It’s been two years but she haunts me

like a crazed Jewish mother (which she was, even though she’d shredded her faith
years earlier), and now my leg begins to ache, the right one, sciatica sending

a fist gripping thigh muscles, foot numb. My dad had sciatica,
retreated to his couch, then his bed, high on 40 years of hydrocodone,

and I wish I knew more about genetics, did I doom my boy before he drew his first breath?
My ghosts are with me everywhere, even here in this northern corner of New York,

and all around are cairns, piles of rocks built by other hikers, mementos of loss.
My husband talks to Ginny and Brian, they all take photos.

I am intent on gathering the right stones to build my own monument.
The wind pulses a foreshadow of autumn.


Valerie Bacharach’s writing has appeared or will appear in: Vox Populi, Blue Mountain Review, EcoTheo Review, Ilanot Review, Minyon Magazine, and One Art, among others. Her chapbook Fireweed was published by Main Street Rag. Her chapbook Ghost-Mother was published by Finishing Line Press. She has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize.

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