Crab Orchard Review, 21: 1-2 (2017)





Child with the lost name, it was your skin

that stood you with the others of your kind

at the barn working our tobacco,

when the tractor, through heavy morning fog,

towed in for curing a drag stacked

with cropped green leaves.

And it nudged the pole that held the roof.

And the pole felled you.

Skin whiskey brown as Catfish Creek.


Come afternoon my father’s jittery hands

gripped his Super-8. Preserved for posterity

the ringlets, crinoline, back-bowed sashes

of my birthday party. Off to one side

Mattie in her good uniform, face behind her hands.

No word uttered about what happened

down by the swamp. Ten candles sputter out.

Jesse leads in the horse I’d begged for.

It fills the frame.


Forty years later to the day, my father,

after too many stiff ones, spills the beans.

Those were the days before people knew

about suing folks for a fortune. He paid

for your funeral, for everything. Sent flowers.

Even visited your family, even sat in your house.

Name? Honey, that was a long time ago.

He believes you were ten, like me.

Happen nowadays—he knocks back the Jack—

he’d be sued in a snap.