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The Head Fields

Story by Terry Ehret (Read author interview) December 15, 2008

Art by Centa Theresa

The highway stretched behind me toward things I couldn’t remember. The unseen ocean lay curled in a bay over the dunes. Beside me there was from time to time a woman. She had come out of the fields to the east. Out of the fields of mushrooms and Brussels sprouts, furtive, pungent crops like tiny heads pushing up out of the earth. She wanted to go where it was I was going, down the white lines of the asphalt highway.

Two whirling dust devils came toward me out of the head fields. They were my interviewers. One voice, a pulsing static, offered me a gift, and I went running down the white-lined highway, breaking into waves, cresting and falling, touching every part that faced away from the light. The second voice smelled of the smoke of big-rig brakes on a mountain grade, asking questions about the methodology of waves, the exact frequency of sighs.

Who do you think you are? the first voice demanded.

“That’s the problem,” I said, “the very heart of the problem.”

The woman handed me a tuning fork.

Have you forgotten your thesis? the second voice accused. Underline for me, please, what you consider your main idea.

What was I supposed to do with the tuning fork? I struck it against my open hand and raised it to my ear.

Start from the beginning, the first voice urged.

To go back was impossible. Whales were heading south, and flocks of pelicans, an endless highway of them just off the coast. The woman tugged at my sleeve like a child, pointing to the tuning fork. My interviewers were growing impatient and whirled closer, stirring up the dust from the head fields and roadside gravel that ticked painfully against my face and hands. I covered my eyes, all the while trying to keep the tuning fork secure, but the woman beside me slipped it out of my fingers and disappeared on her way over the dunes.

About the Author

Terry Ehret is a poet and teacher, as well as one of the founders of Sixteen Rivers Press. She has published three collections: Lost Body (1993), Translations from the Human Language (2001), and most recently Lucky Break (2008). Literary awards include the National Poetry Series, the Commonwealth Club of California Book Award, and the Nimrod/ Hardman Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize. She has taught writing at San Francisco State and Sonoma State Universities, California College of the Arts, Santa Rosa Junior College, and with the California Poets in the Schools Program. She currently leads writing workshops in Sonoma County, California, where she lives with her family.

About the Artist

Centa Theresa has exhibited her mixed media artwork in SF Bay Area galleries, and her poems have been published in various journals, most recently in Eclipse and Tiny Lights. She has authored a letterset edition, “Blameless Recognition of Natural Light”. Visit her online at www.centatheresa.com.

This story appeared in Issue Twenty-Three of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty-Three

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