Wife of Abraham: Why a Dead Animal Still Impresses Me the Most
On any map in any so-called season,
I can recognize myself at least once.
Floods in the West Virginia hills—
I am the wife of the wrong Abraham
caught in a cycle of my mother’s own
blood. I would like to tell her I was
happy then, full of praying mantis
and colorless coal, memories of the
town’s rugged mushrooms and our
family’s dying bee farm, why the floods
on the map are no longer mine. Even
when the carpenter ant bit me and it
felt like the stretch of a beesting,
she spared him. Even when I would
have done anything to snap the chicken’s
neck outside my grandmother’s back
door, I put a bullet in-between the eyes
of a stray dog in Mexico and when
I came home that summer, she cooked
dinner and she washed dishes, and she
wouldn’t look at me. She made holes
in the yellow foam of the car door.
Memories of the stray dog running
backwards across the border, my mother
beguiled by her own wild. Once I had
a body resembling birds, I had a mother
and a father who was driving the car
into the mouths of rotting sycamore,
the owls were on the ground sleeping.
I am afraid that by believing, I could have
been healed. Once I was flesh and once
I was blood, once there was no way
of us ever leaving.
Forty-Some Answers to the Town’s Ladybugs
- If you’re sorry about the ladybugs in Appalachia, then you’re sorry about the foxtails
- in this high desert town. And if you’re sorry about the foxtails ripped from the earth—
- and coming back the next morning, some green after the first rain,
- then you’re starting to believe that what killed her was me. Gathering rocks
- and broken sticks over and over I walked the backyard,
- I cut parts of the sagebrush from the mountain and named them.
- Here is the new moon in Virgo causing me to grieve the wrong way.
- Here is a world where we can only build telescopes so big,
- where we can only see ourselves so small.
- Here are the townspeople protesting again, they want to cut the sickness out
- of the stranger’s blue sky without using the color blue
- to mark the trees that will die. The townspeople hold a meeting,
- gathering up the last known animals to arrive in the iron. They’re killing ants
- with oxen. Killing ants with tea tree oil and vinegar.
- Don’t let your dogs get to the ants or to the oil, they say.
- And if anyone in this high desert town leaves some prairie dog poison
- outside their back door, some sage grouse scattered sand,
- then every morning we relive the bison slaughtered,
- another heartache of dogwood, another gravel-stained season—
- where the pronghorn loses its antlers just because. And if you open the door
- and there is some god: the ladybugs hiding years later in the kerosene
- heater, centuries-old window sills filling with my own kindergarten blood,
- then it was the same sun, the same air, the same sagebrush I killed
- causing my father to hang the wasps by their own simple eyes.
- And if the mother black widow is truly sorry for terrorizing the vacuum,
- and she can no longer reach for the egg sac from continents away,
- then to exist in this physical world is not enough.
- To kill the clay holding up a family of prickly pears and then name it
- some new barbed-wire sound, some brand-new economy
- driving 80 mph through this high desert town, it is not enough.
- I’m the one who pulled the foxtails from her feet again and again.
- I’m the one who moved to this high desert town and couldn’t sleep.
- I’m the one who went searching for pots and pans, someplace I could boil the ants
- until there was no more blood. I remember the grief like the shells we would find
- in the breaking mountainside, shells made out of someone else’s ocean from before.
- I remember your mom making the hole in the backyard knowing
- it was just another hole I would have to climb out of.
- How we buried her body in the same plastic that killed her,
- one large plastic blue bag to keep the toothache of mountain lions away.
- The poorest land was always in my mind.