I just entered you, he said. Like name it and claim it.
The preacher on the radio winds his black stoll
around your eyes. Small red clots of
language between my legs. This is where the girl was found. Hot Tramp.
Down at the creek, carrying so much blood during the Battle of Wilderness,
the swollen banks burst. The children knew this history by instinct,
war between brothers. Your body
just obeyed, crouch and clinch, the reflex against another body
in its strike.
Before the violence of adulthood was the violence of childhood
and before that a whole history of bloodshed as inheritance.
We waded in the shallow waters, the flash and stab of pyrite
and sunlight and the strike of the flint in our hands, all of it
exploded ordinance, tracers of bullets to mark a place
deeply as only war does.
We were always injured down there in our woods, in the waters of our creek,
ankles serrated, braceleted in barbed wire, our fingers stippled
from the pincers of the crawdads we caught and released,
drops of our cells like blotches of ink on the wet pebbles,
seeping into the sparkling sand. I went back and mapped it out
with GPS. Nothing had changed. Same dogwoods, same groove of trench and mounds,
the ghosts of us, still barefoot in the water,
same breath-hold break-point, same drown.
(Missouri Review, Winter 2016. Poems from Thrust, Winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor’s Choice Award, Persea Books, 2017)