Half harvested in late August.
Baked yellow husks hang off stalks. It is hot.
It is dusk and dry chutes
stretched and shrunken
whisk the moisture from our sticky skin.
They bend in close and whisper along
our arms, our backs, our thighs
as we army crawl through cornfields.
Our summer-swollen bellies are caked with dirt,
and stalks press in close all around.
In September we get under our desks.
We hunch and fold ourselves in, cannot move a muscle.
Heads bent into our knees we listen for a whistle;
through fat Mrs. Crump’s hummed how sweet the sound,
ears strain to make out the whisper of the end of the world.
After school we hole up in the tree house over by Cottonhollow.
Four of us collect, angular limbs strangely
interlocked. Our bodies are hot and lanky.
We are hooked on Life—we fill our cars with kids as wood like a cocoon
The Wrenches live down the road, and in November Rusty runs
into me with his mouth wide open and his teeth split my forehead.
Jesus says Rusty Wrench and runs with his mouth still open.
Hot blood slicks and steams, I’m black-faced red and darn that Halloween's gone past.
In December we hear that some high school kid
swan-dived off the rocks into the river behind the middle school, and
it was too shallow.
We hear that now he’s stuck
in the hospital, and stuck
We hear he tells his legs to move but they’re stuck.
Pa says Dumb kids.
If you ever…
In January Christy Cooper next door starts saying “Goddamn.”
Her mother screams at all hours.
Christy says Goddamn it Ma,
you’re suffocating me.
Lying in bed with the covers over my head my breath condenses.
In the darkness I can’t make out anything beyond my belly button.
(Christy, I say, I’m starting to feel suffocated
“I’ve known rivers”
I’ve known the slap rush roar of island ocean, Fire Island summer ocean stirring the shore.
I’ve known the hum of Rhode Island harbor, slick clam mud between toes, crab-pinched soles.
I’ve known the tickle and trickle of Vermont creeks, mountain water slipping cold past fingertips, leeches lazy on
I’ve known August green rain, droplets running through sidewalk cracks, thunderstorms wandering through
peach-sticky Brooklyn stoop evenings.
My father is like a river, like the whispering song of a river. My father moves
long and slow, thinks like curves, like the curves of a river.
When rivers romp across borders, who do they belong to?
To the ocean?
Rivers moor to the ocean. Rivers rest at the ocean.
The fingers of the rivers
and the fingers of the ocean
I am like a river gone.
I am like a river going.
I am like a river that has yet to go.
My father told me
when the tide goes
out the sea bulges
like a pregnant belly
towards the moon.
My mother made beets
and I got sick on my plate.
That night I dreamed swollen
dreams of purple planets
fevered ripe and bursting.
Underground, earthworms slip
slip through my grandfather’s
caved veins, make them bulge
blue rivers through skin so thin.
I walk in an iced field with frozen cows
keeled over—slick white bellies glisten,
and when I strike the tendu-ed legs they
vibrate, buzz, hum, tune the parsed air.
My sister jiggles her bellied thighs and moans:
Look, she says, look, they’re bloated, bulging, about to
Age 16, Grade 11
Saint Ann’s School