I’m set to go, here at last.
Pack up my beleaguered brain, fill myself
with glories of going home.
Just as my ancestors, I’m starting in the east
coldhearted and coast-lonely,
to cross fields and plains,
come up again to that mountain. I will
find my people inside, all coffee and dominoes,
smiling to tell me that the pansies
have sprouted in this fine spring weather.
And here is my father, resplendent in his overalls,
soft in his work gloves. His ruddy skin,
rough from years of work and sun,
smells of cinnamon and dirt and books.
Kissing his cheek is like singing a hymn.
His hands are so big, he circles fingers around my wrist
and cups my own hand against his hollowed palm.
And where is my sister? The wild eyed warrior
whose blonde hair stood in nests as a girl?
I cannot feel my feet until she is squeezing me tight
telling me my face is droopy from the journey.
We’ll pick up the conversation we’ve left off-
the one started as children in the deep night.
And what of the sisters and brothers never born?
No nicknames for the ones unsat on picnic blankets.
Maybe they’re meeting down by the creek at dusk,
playing ghost games with the hickory sticks
we’ve long since abandoned.
On the shelf, with the pewter creamer,
Piles the dust of the deaths we’ve collected,
the names kept safely under tongues
to stitch through our grief songs.
And joining, maybe, each columbine
that didn’t pace with the garden bed.
This is my Thanksgiving.
Did you think it would be an autumn poem?
No. It is a family poem, an earth poem…
it’s the truest poem I know how to make.
It bristles my heart and sings the wounds there.
This poem goes on and on forever,
there’s no proper way to end it.
My life is tied up inside it all and so I won’t say here finished
but rather, until you return with grass blades on your feet…
North, and What the Woman Saw There
Look how summit, empty of all the useless kinds of noise,
Sends out evergreens that are bold and steadfast,
standing eternally flush against a mountain sky.
Ancient goats and wind, snow unmelting—
time is simply a guest here.
What peerage, to be a mountain citizen.
I am only a transient visitor though,
heading west, tempted into pause
by wild peaks who are not ashamed of anything.
What of the epoch of my life?
Tilling earth till fingers crack,
sweat, dead aunts and rough goodbyes,
labor that says well done, dear,
now begin again tomorrow.
Yet also pancake suppers and the
sound of a sister’s laugh at dusk.
With each step westward, each
sudden drop of a heart disappointed,
there are also snapdragons, erupting.
It almost comes out even.
We are horizontal creatures,
taking liberties with going up.
A brief hush, a moment to soul-intone
then back down with me,
to my unrequited life,
carrying year after year in my skin.
Continue on west, for familiar ones,
for potato soup in blue bowls and
sooner or later, death.
Maybe the breeze lifting off the slope
is the mountain saying peace?
I think it’s just me, supplicating.
Lydia Renfro holds an MFA from Adelphi University and is the recipient of the Donald Everett Axinn Award for Fiction. Her work has appeared in Litro U.S., Siblini Journal, The Blue Nib, Witches Mag, Miletus International Literature Magazine, The Merrimack Review, Isacoustic*, and others. She currently lives in Colorado, and is completing her first novel manuscript.