Leaving the Valley
His tan hand as hairless as leather, William thumbs a stray orange pepper chunk from the corner of his mouth. He unfolds, from a chest pocket, a photo of a woman—puts it away. In summer, his skin turns dark sienna like hers. Their separation is impermanent, he thinks, for now. Hungry still, he searches for a patch of trees to pardon his laboring body from the midday light, to pardon himself from her accusations, as focused and severe as the July sun, about his hunger—what he demands of others. Her voice is like the terse dirt of the unfed creek bed. The dry valley magnifies heat but most of all what is not within it: grassy moraines rampant with wild lilac, contrails of cottonwood in strong wind. He leaves the valley to memorize their colors. The tones of a new topography can heal a callous appetite, the demands of a heart.
Dan Klen was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs. His work has appeared in The Monarch Review and The Cossack Review. He works as a scientific editor in Champaign, Ill.