Various and Sundry Poetry


Not my river
Not my cousins
Not my crab traps and skateboard circles and first whiff
of drunk on my aunt’s summer patio
Not my fields of high corn and skeeters
making crazy-train train tracks on my ankles
Not my heavy metal nighttime cicadas and the swell from
the neighbor’s boat upheaving my stolen afternoon swim.
Not my mother plodding absent in the folds of the house
Not my plot of land at the foot of a lonely peninsula
Not my eight-year-old’s silence howled into a bed pillow
Not my pancaking of limbs and the flat-lining of trust
Not my suntanned skin on the dock on the good days
And my knees ragged on driveway gravel on the bad
and the whining sawof a birdhouse built too high for me to reach
Not my rippling loneliness
Not my alliance with the handhold bark of old, unmoving trees
Not my terror of August thunder and the windows rattling
Not my hideaways behind the barn
Not my secrets behind my secrets
Not my steel-hearted clarity and the baptismal wash of river water
> over my ears and my arguments and my betrayals and my brokenness
Not mine, not mine, not mine, but still
I’m sitting on that same porch, the backyard grass mowed
like Sunday church, the smell of bacon on the stove
and the square troughs of waffles filling with syrup and maybe
they switched out the Bible for the collected poems of Emily Dickinson
and the road out now leads, eventually, to Walmart and a highway and
an ocean where the tide pulls you so far out you can’t see the shore for shit,
and maybe there are no real bullets left in the guns he lets
the boys snap back and maybe it’s easy to make jokes now about tent revivals
and wax nostalgic about the years spent here before everyone
had to go on and grow up, but I feel it, I feel it, watching her
furrow slightly as we walk down the road to get a little
fresh air, I feel it, the same narrowing she must have crawled inside
thirty-five years ago, looking for shelter anywhere it might find her.
Be careful, she says, pointing to a shock of poison ivy and sure enough,
it’s everywhere, and even the dog knows not to go there and we walk
to the center of the lot where the house no longer stands before turning around.
And I feel it when we slide off our flip-flops and watch the kid-splash
in the small pool below the deck and I feel it in her grip around the
bourbon-and-ginger as the dinner puttering begins and then, on a whim,
we go back out to pick fresh tomatoes from an uncle’s garden and one by one,
discover them all sagging and rotten on the vine. I feel it there, too,
us quiet and alone and kneeling in the overgrowth, pawing for fruit,
feel her eyes begin their watery escape, and the sky begins to purple
like a bruise that never forgot itself and the reflex of our hands finds us,
finds us like a river we never knew existed, and we lean into the thought
of that water and the drift and the highway and even the Walmart
where a bag of sunflower seeds will see us into the small, insistent hungers
of our long drive home.