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Rachel Contreni Flynn


Dead Center

August in Indiana:

a heavy moon hung over space
where there was almost nothing

but one big town at dead center.

Grasshoppers popped under tires,
the trees swelled with grackles,

and I amused myself with windmills—
the solitary geometry of glint and spin,

slowing then standing motionless
until the sky raised its dark fist.

The autumn my mother left
a coldness opened . . .

Beans dried to snakes' tails in the fields,
and my chest filled with rust.

In the snow I walked the pastures

in an orange poncho
my father could see from the house.

Once I told him to stop waving at me.

Once I said maybe I'll just keep walking.

And once I slid the poncho
to the near-frozen middle of Moots Pond

just to watch him run from the house
barefoot and wild.


I sleep the smell of bricks and books,
the shucking of corn,
the porch swing on fire.

I sleep the wake of my mother's red thresher.

I sleep the business of gray cranes,
angry cats, bear pits.
In Belize, 90 degrees — I sleep a manatee mother
at the mouth of the Monkey River.

I poke her with a stick.

I'm sick in my sleep — a curl of caulk in the sheets —
I sleep mercury, tarot cards, ginger ale.
Over again, I sleep

lavender, camphor, hands,
(Her yellow dress full of strawberries? I sleep them.)

And fog.
Fieldstone and gunshots;
a face over the flashlight, saying   Cold
is the size of loneliness.

I sleep the front yard in her robe, waiting.

I sleep the front yard in her robe, waiting.

I sleep buckeyes and money —
gibberish and Jesus —
a brittle board over the cistern,
there I sleep jump-roping.

Falling. Algae. I sleep well
and metal pail — a dark circle, a pit
of lavender, camphor, hands —

in her robe
in the yard, waiting ... I sleep my fist

and raise myself, shaking.

                   -from Ice, Mouth, Song

Hunger for Something Easier

I suppose now you'll deny it all:
there was no wild pig in the woods,
hair up on his back like barbed wire,
eyes sunk and runny in crusted tunnels
along the snout.  And we didn’t run
through red brambles, banging our legs
against stumps until we flung ourselves
into the thorny arms of an apple tree.  
You'll say we didn't stay shoved up
against the bark breathing bright spice
and pitching green fruit to frighten away
the pig.  You'll never say you were afraid
or that I held you and you held me
and we crouched on the thin branches
until night slunk in, and a hunger
for something easier turned the pig away.  

Sand in the Gas Tank

We were allowed to go everywhere.  We were allowed, and therefore

we ransacked the Cozy Camper parked behind the hardware store, stole change
and tiny bottles of rum then shoved handfuls of sand in the gas tank.

We drank the rum and got sick in Moots Creek.

We swam in the creek, and leeches sucked on our legs.  Bobby Justice burned them off with a cigarette.

We smoked cigarettes in an abandoned bomb shelter full of girlie mags and  canned beans.

We leafed through the girlie mags and felt fat, ugly, flat.

We planned to run away, biking along the highway, until the semis scared us into a culvert.

We met in the culvert a great blue heron that bolted up, also scaring us.

We were alone with each other.

We loved each other in the dirt and sweat and hardship we imagined constructed us.

We were allowed to construct a story around the small town that sheltered us.  We were never alone.  Always the widow in the upstairs window squinting as we sloshed in Moots Pond.  Always the farmer noting the heron.  Always each other.

If there’s sand in the gas tank, we put it there.  If we’ve revved and sputtered and forgotten ourselves, we should be ashamed.  Once we were sisters, dirty and scared, but pedaling.  

Allowed to go everywhere.

                     -from Tongue