“Don’t be afraid, mister. I won’t kill you. I’m only going to take your eyes.”
“But what do you want with my eyes?” I asked again.
“My girlfriend has this whim. She wants a bouquet of blue eyes.
And around here they’re hard to find.”
–Octavio Paz, “The Blue Bouquet”
It was inching toward dusk when she said, I’ve always wanted someone to bring me flowers. From where we sat, on the drop-off overlooking the mill, watching trucks surge past along the curve of road below, where it had exiled much of the hillside neighborhood half a century ago, when the trains still ran and the black stacks still churned out smoke, I could see the chicory blossoms choking the sun-scorched berm by the thousands, pale and fluttering. A garden of light blue eyes. For the longest time, I’d wanted to put them in a poem. But I didn’t say this. Or how they reminded me of a story I’d once read, about a man who almost lost his eyes, plucked like grapes from their wiry stalks, in the name of someone else’s love. Instead I slid down the rocky bank, almost tumbling into the path of a growling Kenworth, and gathered them in a bunch. Air horns blared as I scrambled back. They’re beautiful, she said, clutching the segmented stems as the diesel wind dragged her black hair sideways. Thank you. Did she see them as I did, as now I always would? I smiled. Wondered if she had such whims as this. The poem, I decided, was in not knowing. Whether she would ever ask for such a thing. And what I could do if she did.
William R. Soldan grew up in and around the Rust Belt city of Youngstown, Ohio, where he lives with his wife and two children. He is a high school dropout and college graduate who holds a BA in English Literature from Youngstown State University and an MFA from the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program. His work appears in publications such as New World Writing, Jellyfish Review, Kentucky Review, (b)OINK, Anomaly Literary Journal, The Best American Mystery Stories 2017, Ohio’s Best Emerging Poets, and many others. If you’d like to connect, you can find him on social media.