Tessa Tapscott, Grown of Many, 2017
Watercolor and collage
6 x 6"

the canary trills but doesn’t die
as i descend lower on the body
each scar, a never healing native of that place

there’s little danger in memory
one on my shin from a rolled ankle on the tracks
skin skid on steel, never a question if anything is on the way

a burn from a lesson on how to cook pork butts
boil for one hour, simmer for three generations
fork in hand, wonder why the fourth one skipped town

i go back often enough to know not to look in the wound
of an empty storefront or at the beacon of a bar stool
everywhere the skin of earth puckered by extraction

if you want reasons, find the eye of the susquehanna
(it’s nice to have a bad river to blame) square up
with her dirty face and make her promise to keep it down

i wasn’t born when agnes stormed through our town
didn’t watch the coffins flood our streets—was it our dead
reminding us it’s okay to leave or were the bobbing wooden boxes

the knock of bone just the echo of a pick chipping at coal
i never heard the shrill whistle break the levy in the mine
the rise of men to the surface, the sundown street swollen with soot

but i knew the shaft of lungs of the ones who got the good hand
the noisy cave inside collapsing, a blood black paycheck staining the sink—
my porcelain basin is spotless but the hum of the breaker is in my bones

when i am thirsty from a day of work, that river snakes my spine again
the water i cup in my palm limps down my wrist and i am waist deep


nicole v. basta