This is Mark on the front porch with a gun
in his mouth. The wind cold and heavy. A meadowlark
is singing. Maybe Mark is singing Peace Be Still, might think
for a second of his brother when he sang
the same in front of church, off key.
This is Mark’s brother checking cattle in a pasture
nearby, heat from the horse beneath
him steaming the winter air. He doesn’t
look up when he hears the shot. It’s Wyoming after all. This
is the moment right before knowing. Let’s lay
it on the table, fold back the corners, smooth any wrinkles:
A young man turns his horse toward home, the only sound,
hooves on dirt, and maybe Sandhill cranes like we saw
that summer, their legs going on so long beneath them. Or maybe
the sky is empty—there’s not a bird for miles.
Mother, Any Given Day
Across two cattle guards,
past the curve of the sewer pond,
my mother puts chains on the tires
of our pickup, burns garbage
in a metal trash can, sings Nothing but the Blood of Jesus, plays the keys
of the upright. The notes rise
from her fingers like cactus spines
in the pasture I roam. She watches
me through the window as she sews
our Easter dresses, thinks of the children
God took home. She knows as well
as that prickly pear how our bodies are
hidden waters. Sometimes she laughs
so hard she cries and we tease her,
but even in my smallness
I know it’s a soft rare bloom.
Sometimes she closes
the bathroom door and keeps the crying
quiet. With winter approaching
succulents die back to their unseen
things—roots below ground,
bulbs that could never last
in this wide open.
When I Say Memory
I mean apples
that fell every
fall into our rusted
small yard, and the worms
all that sweetness.
I mean the deer
the apples would bring leaping
our high fence of faded morning
glories. I mean the buck
that slept there midday
just outside my window
so my small son couldn’t
dig in his sandbox.
I mean the worms
were in the apples and
the apples in the buck and
the buck in my yard. I mean me
watching my son
watching—all the years
to come tunneling inside
him like a kind of sweetness.
And this now, only
in us, not even in the buck,
who I’m sure is just antlers
and bones, if that.
took the baby
into the throat of
the woods. She’ll be cold
sometimes, but she won’t know
the shame of her body. You may
see her years from now, among
the cedars. Isn’t it beautiful
how she doesn’t cover herself
with her hands? You’ll look
out the window and imagine
enough for flesh, blackening
feet below her ankles. You’ll dream her
hair filled with branches.
It could make you
jealous, all the tangle
and wild. You’ll stand in the yard
some nights, try to
trade your voice for howl.
Stacy Boe Miller is a writer living in northern Idaho. Some of her work can be found in Copper Nickel, River Teeth’s Beautiful Things, Northwest Review, and other journals. She is a reader for Fugue Literary Journal and serves on the board of High Desert Journal.
Header photo by outdoorsman, courtesy Shutterstock.