by Claudia F. Savage
He is not even here,
but the dinner conversation is going badly,
the guests are talking about some perceived evil:
oil and gas drilling, ranching, or pork
in such a way that the tone slants toward that place
where country people are only huddling,
dull-eyed sheep bleating for Jesus.
The guest who swirls her Cabernet is delicate in candlelight.
The guest who shivers, doubting the fact that I can shoot, compliments
my green beans. They are forking in the roasted potato, the room.
I want to show the guy my left hook
instead of the apple tart. This
I can stop.
Loving him muddied a line inside me.
I want to tell them, there is a woman in a wheelchair echoing
the blue hills’ rain whether or not I am there to listen.
There is a cabin above the plum orchard
that you must stoop to enter. For 130 years
its planks let the world in. At dusk a bluebird’s
call can carry through the blackberry to greet
There is his grandfather trying to save that
man falling into the cement pit, thick dust blinding.
There is his father pushing brooms through the
high school halls to fill his belly.
There is him, hiking into the mountains
in three feet of snow, gusts urging it below 20,
for so many hours that his fingers lose
their sense of touch and never regain it.
And how he didn’t complain
as I wrapped blanket after blanket around him,
the skin on his knuckles elephantine,
cheeks furious with wind.
I want to tell them, no hillside will ever
sigh at your return. No pine sweeten.
His people never trusted me, and now,
have even less reason to,
still, he made his history mine.
He said this mountain will turn your legs to ghosts. These vines
are good for thickening. He lengthened his vowels
in the curve of my ear till they nested, sun-filled snakes.
Without him, I fear the clay rivers
will not recognize me. I fear there will be no welcoming
hillside, no leaf-tinged light. I fear I will be stuck
hearing Northeasterners chew their fattened beef
at my table forever.