Erin CaseGolden Pockets (collage)

Outside My Tho,
Jacob said they herded children
onto the road,
shot anyone who tried
to save them, then shot
the children too.
I can show you
the exact tree that held my
brother’s body,
the lanyard of night
he slipped around his neck,
but I wouldn’t know
the cry of a gull.
What I am told of the sea
is that its waves
crest like bands
of running horses,
that it’s like a lake
of mountains, endless
and churned by beasts.
What I know of lakes
is personal, how I pale
to milk in their grip,
pecked occasionally
by fish, how flesh
is tendered
by the water’s slow embrace.
Who would I be
apart from these hills?
Beneath my fingernails,
red crescents of mud
glow like embers
before moonrise.
In the dark, trails
spill from secret watchtowers.
Owls call from unseen
perches of night.
I can show you
what you don’t want to see,
a man hanging from a tree,
a nest of water moccasins,
a beehive, every vine
of poison ivy winding
through this county.
One day my body
will be a bomb
going off in the street,
but for now I will give you
small mercies—
two fawns, pearl-bright and hidden
in the sweetshrub,
horses that crash
like waves
through the light.


Kate Gaskin