Christine Spillson

A Sign in Space (Midwest Edition)

I’d come back and there it would be in its place,
just as I had left it, simple and bare,
but with that unmistakable imprint, so to speak,
that I had given it.
--Italo Calvino

When my feet were six, they were sometimes feet
in cement, not stuck, marking it
with me before quick-dryingness became

permanent without me. My feet, my hands,
my sister’s feet, her hands, fingers and toes
pointing deeper into a southern Ohio backyard,

towards two trees—one the perfect distance
from the other to span a hammock, to echo the gap
in the wooden fence that sturdied rosebushes, guarded

tomatoes, rhubarb. Toes pressed deeper than shallow
curved heels, absent arch, show a body leaning
forward, pressing away—poised to run out to grass

not into house. The augury of movement
in the marks is easier than the memory. Done
with either giggles or disgust, the image

more construction than imprint—the image
of wet cement, of unfinished construction
waiting for imprint—a scene observed,

not experienced. They would stay forward
pointing rather than backward looking.
After I left, my family left, the house

emptied, was sold, refilled. I might now
circle back, looking for the sign that stood
for presence but became absence, a meaning

that slid while they rooted and smoothed,
holding smaller puddles in rain, in snowmelt.


Christine Spillson is a recent graduate of the nonfiction MFA at George Mason University and teaches at Salisbury University in Maryland. Her work has been listed as “notable” in Best American Essays and has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Boulevard, Crazyhorse, Diagram, The Rumpus and Portland Review.