From CRAB ORCHARD REVIEW, 21:1-2 (2017)






Skinny second-grade sharecropper boys:

straw-headed, lizard-eyed, sores scratched open.

Nehi for supper, Baby Ruth for lunch.

Cussing already. They run in packs.


They drink no milk. They eat no peas.


First week of first grade. I don’t know

the ropes. Past swings, coal pile,

whitewashed gym—I’ve gone too far.

Red apple half-eaten in my hand.


They brush no teeth.


Heavy-sweet hedge, honeysuckle

to pluck to touch to tongue-tip.

Yellow jackets swarm. First bell.

I drop the apple before it stings.


They kiss no mother.


Three—long-legged, too fast.

Cheek fisted down, mouth spitting grit.

Up my dress, ragged nails dig past elastic.

Last bell rings. I’m late for Reading.


They live in dust. Find home in fields.




From 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.
















My husband can’t stop watching

the woman who can’t stop gardening

across the street. She's fortyish,

like me, but blonde, which is better,

and newly divorced.

“I've never seen her up close.”

No masking his frustrated lust.


She is distant,

but once, crossing the street,

she handed me a bunch of limp four o'clocks.

They'd take over a bed, she warned,

if I didn't watch out.


She's blonde. Did I mention that?

Loose-limbed as a teenager and lovely,

if you can forgive her eyes, focused

on a face more rare than yours—

lavender moonflower or bearded iris.

And she's passionate, judging from her spells

of ravenous pruning.


Hers is a jumble of a garden—

shasta, daylily, gardenia, rose, canna.

It flatters her house, its gables

and pitched roof,

arched windows that reveal

a huge rack of antlers and a caged cockatiel.


How could I not prefer it

to this solid Georgian,

its staid azaleas and family portraits

shot at three-year intervals?

There I could grow wild

and—who knows?—even beautiful.





From SOUTH CAROLINA REVIEW, 48:1 (Fall 2015)





Easter at the Camp, Stonewall, Louisiana



We've pinned him down beside the barn

on a paint-scabbed bench. 

In Michael’s hand, a pocket-knife. 

No anesthesia. The screaming

sounds more child than goat.


Nancy grips his front legs,

Dave, the hind.

My hands press the ribs,

the kicking heart.

Marion holds his little horns.

Nick, who’s ten, runs circles around us

and points: "Are they what holds the pee?" 


Junior's eyes are filmy bulbs.

His shivery bleating rises. …

Once he goes quiet, limp as a rug,

we love him.  "He's given up."

Marion shrugs. "He's ready to be eaten."

Michael's shirt is a red-brown Rorschach

of spilt Betadyne.

Junior's tongue is blue.

Mosquitoes, too early, shrill in our ears.

Mended with gauze and duct tape,

he blinks once, wobbles to his feet,

then climbs the hay bales straight up

to where they meet the roof.


They lie on a Bounty towel

on the bench, looking remarkably

like the eggs we hide—

first boiled, then dyed.



From CUMBERLAND RIVER REVIEW, 4:1 (Spring 2015)






The black dog settles his chin

on the edge of the bed,

works it onto my pillow. 

He inches his nose-tip to mine

and breathes humid day

into my night-breath. 

Canned sardines and damp Saltines.

Fumed out of dreaming,

I squint into his grave brown stare. 

He needs to know that I will rise.

My hand finds his wide head,

a long soft ear. Satisfied,

he curls onto the floor,

begins at once to snore. 


In this dim half-waking, 

my spirit remembers fear

and cannot keep from returning

to the one child I was not unable

to bring into the world.

My face lowers, until—there—

her milkish breath, the rise and fall

of thin cotton, her rare small chest.

Holidays, she returns. As if a ghost,

I crack open her bedroom door. 

Dark hair frames a woman’s face,

but her mouth is her newborn mouth.

If she opens her eyes, she will laugh,

then she will leave.



From FLEUR DE LIT, 1:1 (2017)





Worley Observatory, Shreveport, LA, August 2015



The hard-lit steel plant to the east soils

the once-pure, strict dark of the fields. 

Where else to run away from home to but here,

this observatory that small-town dreamers

built atop a corncrib. Relic like us of the ’60s,

it draws dreamers still, hoping for a spectacle.

Conditions are as good as they get—

no moon, few clouds, even a breeze

to break the heat. Some stranger—

amateur astronomer?—says look to the west,

be patient, releases us to be girls,

to lie flat on dry grass, to watch the sky

for what comes: blinking planes, satellite flares,

heat lightning, the Milky Way … constellations

whose names we don’t know, so we invent them—

Sherpa, Boaz—Labs we mourn. Patience?

We have the patience of girls pole-fishing

with grandfathers deep in swamps,

girls whose stiff-fingered grandmothers spin yarns

endless as galaxies. We have the patience

to pray hard for a miracle.

Slash of a meteor so near, so bright, we startle.

Burned out too fast, too soon, even for a wish.


For Dorie LaRue