Nancy Chen Long: “Umbra”


Swarms of newcomers invade the park.

As the light fades into an odd blue

hue, the boy stares upward, in his hand

a fortune cookie. The scope of the sky

doesn’t matter when the noon-day

moon invites you to escape.

A gaggle of befuddled geese escape

to a moss-covered pond. Scooters park

along a picket fence, bringing in more day-

trippers impatient for an eclipse. The blue

sunlight edges toward gray, but the sky

is still bright. The father fidgets, his hands

arguing with a camera. The boy hands

his father the fortune. No one escapes

alive. He pockets the fortune as he eyes the sky.

In an old pickup truck, the mother arrives. Park

the picnic basket there, the father points to a blue

tarp weighted with limestone. Every day-

dream is a ready answer, she thinks, her day

overrun with dreams. Her right hand

holds a blank book, while her left holds blue

orchids. A turquoise-tinted humming bird escapes

detection, zipping toward her. The park

floods with tourists the way the sky

floods with birds. Soon there will be no sky

to see, a passerby whispers to the boy. Today

is the boy’s birthday and the ballpark

is where he’d rather be, trying his hand

at magic. Once, the boy narrowly escaped

disappearing into a crowd. Once, out of the blue,

the sun was swallowed by the moon. A blue

moon is not an abomination and the sky

is not the limit, says the mother to the sun. Escape

is in the mind, says the father to himself. The day

inches along, people hand-in-hand,

singing, in love with astronomy. Park

rangers pass out glasses in the parking lot. Blue

petals spill from the mother’s hand. The father escapes

into a daydream. Their son stares at the prophetic sky.

Nancy Chen Long was a 2017 National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing fellow. Her first book, Light into Bodies (University of Tampa Press, 2017), won the Tampa Review Poetry Prize. Recent work appeared in Southern ReviewCimarron ReviewNinth Letter, Crab Orchard Review, Zone 3, Briar Cliff Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Pleiades, Not Like the Rest of Us: An Anthology of Contemporary Indiana Writers, and elsewhere. She works in Research Technologies at Indiana University.

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