Lorrie Ness's work can be found at numerous journals including Palette Poetry,
THRUSH, The Shore and others. She has been nominated for the Best of the Net
by Sky Island Journal in both 2019 and 2020. Her chapbook Anatomy of a
Wound is forthcoming from Flowstone Press.
Witnesses say it was you. They heard your joists
banging through the night.
Did it cause you to swell? The pounding
rain? Your wooden frames to grip tightly to shut doors?
How hard did you push back
against the slurry slipping across the stoop?
Did you dream the dampness away? Go to a high desert
inside your mind and pretend to be adobe
when the mud coated your baseboards?
Have you learned to be more watchful
of gathering clouds, of birds
battling a rising wind? Can you feel it still?
The hail knocking, wind peeling back your shingles—
the whole house a storm? What if
you'd laced your rafters a little bit tighter together?
Could you have fought off
the wetness wicking all the way
to the bottom of your studs? Did it smell of musk?
The black stain growing behind marshy walls?
The inspector saw it all
after he drove a hammer through your paint. Used its claw
to pry your gypsum apart.
Were you embarrassed of the screws?
Their threads rusting deep inside your grain?
How their orange streaks remained
even after he stripped you clean?
starling-sewn clouds | cinch tight
over high ground | where women and birds
once gathered | by food & fire
all that remains | are arrowheads
piercing plough-turned soil | a grinding stone
clutched in the roots | of a toppled tree
i walk | amidst the rubble
with an apron of bread | to cast into the grass
threaded popcorn | to drape on ironweed
the flock | forages in a froth
of wing-tossed dew | where ravens once scavenged
scattered bones | by a flint's edge
we do not fear | the scarecrow
skewered on his own pike | his shadow a crucifix
falling across | stolen land
Long hair was bound to his forehead
by a flannel's amputated arm. Its plaid print
sucked away sweat before it dropped
to the shoulder. On state road 121
Firebirds and Chargers revved,
peeled off in twos. Most Saturday nights
he parked below the billboard's halo of moths
leaned back against the driver's side door,
and flicked his Zippo. Warrant and Poison poured
so loud from his open windows that crushed cans
hit the pavement in silence. He blasted 8-tracks
smoked pot and joined the union.
After a year of jackhammers and angle grinders,
his Plymouth turned over without a roar
but he learned to hear it through his grip on the steering wheel,
the gear shift vibrating on the floor.
He sank his paychecks into subwoofers and bass
and his chest began to pulse
with Iron Maiden. But it was ironwork
that finished the job. He was straddling an I-beam
when molten slag ricocheted behind his welding helmet
burned its way down a waterless canal.
What sound did he hear as the drum incinerated—
the beat softened by heavy metal?
Earth slopes toward it like the shore,
a milk-soft fog
leveling the saddleback land
to the timberline.
Do you remember these lowlands
last winter? How the basin flooded and froze?
I watched you plodding ahead,
following coyote tracks across an ice bridge.
Your coat was red as its kill
when you crouched among the willows
gathering rabbit fur in your mittens
to coat the wind.
Today your aluminum pail
rumbles with walnuts as you meander the hill
to forage a lower clump of trees.
I hear the squeaking handle, the clink of shells
long after your parka fades to pink,
disappears below the haze.
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