Cover Photo: Portland, Oregon, September 9, 2020 [photo by author]
Portland, Oregon, September 9, 2020 [photo by author]

When the Smoke Cleared

There was a ball of yarn.

One year, when the smoke cleared, I saw a bird fluttering on the ground, no it was a ball of yarn, and when I reached for it, it rolled away, way, way, down the street where I couldn't see a tree from a house. I kept the end of the thread in my pocket, no idea where the ball went. I kept it for a year that way. It even felted into a nice thick stick I sometimes used to stir my tea. 

When the smoke returned, I followed the thread. Why not? It was time. I walked down the street, my eyes burning, my throat raw. I couldn't see the houses on the left, the houses on the right, I couldn't see the yards, and how the quiet unfolded like the night even during the day. I kicked myself for waiting so long. I grew afraid, but the thread seemed to tug for me to come. 

I arrived to the other end of the thread holding the newly formed ball of yarn in my hands. There were others, each having followed their own threads, each holding their own balls of yarn. One person had thought their ball of yarn a stiff raccoon before closer inspection. What a big ball she had. 

Together, we raised the ends of our threads and tied a great big knot. We hugged crying. We waved farewell as we walked away, laying down the thread on each of our paths. We promised to return.

When the smoke clears. 

Corinne Hughes is a poet, essayist, and fiction writer residing in Portland, Oregon. She is a 2021 participant in One Story magazine’s Writing Circle, and received a summer writing fellowship from the National Book Foundation in 2004. She frequently attends workshops and is currently at work on a novel and a short story collection. Her poem "10 Books Influencing My Novel Right Now" can be found in Passengers Journal.