Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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I have tried to say this other ways—
we were damaged. Cold mountain mornings,
broken branches trembled in our drowsy air.

Sagebrush washed through the fence lines.
The canal curved flat, power lines dissected
chicory-ripe ridges. Our plum tree swayed

heavy in the wind. Outside the house,
swollen bulbs in the ground stunned suddenly
open, corrosive with lethargy. My eyes,

sun-withered wicks, squinted behind half-drawn curtains.
Hard to stay out of the dark, isn’t it? What does
it matter what held me, or who,

but the ghost of the lost and gone? Each day,
my life begins. Crab apples spatter the ravine.
Towhees scream and I’ve become so used

to that sound, another sharp heart in the yard’s stark tune.
This time it isn’t the rest of the raptured earth
I hear but myself, yearning this way.

Always seems what I wanted to be true about heartache
isn’t. There is no bullet-worthy clemency. It knows
no ease. I can sense it—absence, its tunneling

of the body; a grief I learned to live through by not
remembering whole days. It gets easier, is what
I mean. What a lie it’d be to say every school

shooting no longer shakes me from dreams, awake
and heaving, splashed in my own vomit. Takes
all but dying to slip from my skin, to calm

the beating between the ribs. The only world I knew;
mountains, the blur of light and shadow from Evans,
Quandary—ice-gutted glaciers letting go,

is not the same country I see leaning over
these fences, split-pitch pine awash in June grass,
lodgepoles pulled to the ground

like half-sunk tusks, but it’s the closest I can get to a home
anymore. I’m still living behind a meadow, studying
the shape of snowcaps. Cone-heavy fir trees rock

on the face of the creek, needles split like hairpins
in the ditch weed. Over and beyond, the mountains
never move; they stay where they are

and never move. Only weak haze drifts across
them now, faint and thin, violet streaks reach
across frozen skies. Shouts fill the dugouts.

Cleats in the fields clutch and run through mud and past
the chain-link, the ranges spread on forever. Magenta
wounds. The rage in us blistering.

Flag half-mast at the high school. Just cottonwoods forever,
then evergreens. Above tree line, bristlecones torque
into themselves, petrified. Starts of wet flakes

wield outward. End the drifting for miles down
these hills. Send me down, spin me in all directions.
This is one way of accepting the life I’ve inherited—

let the dead dream along the churning edges of earth.
All the surprises ahead of me I already know.  

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