Slack of tongue I was
Nearly small as a sedge-warbler
When the young girl’s body
Was laid flat as a blade.
Her death still haunts this vestal daughter
Who recalls the river’s long curve,
The shrunken dusk of nightfall
When the farmer looking for lost calves
Discovered her out in the webbed marsh
Where toadstools and stumps
Repeated themselves that weary January
And she was my age, five
Exactly, and I didn’t know my destiny
Would be to save women, to speak
Up about the coldness of love
To clean out its rust.
I knew the hammered anvil’s ring,
The grunts, the slam and flick
Of a man who beat iron out,
My father, a brute with globe shoulders
Who could make my mother shudder.
I mapped his furrows exactly
Riding him piggyback,
Dipping, rising to the plough,
Closing one eye tight to follow the map,
The broad shadow round the farm,
The slug and thump for hours
Until our hung dry clothes were splattered.
The girl still rests in me like hot water,
A fifty year lid unfitted to a pot.
The memory blisters for I recall how they
Fished her from the mud and laid her in the pantry.
There was room for me at the schoolhouse then,
But my mother kept me in, coloring in the kitchen,
Afraid of the murderer, who he was;
A mystery opaque, where pitch knows this stigmata.
Leonore Wilson is on the St. Mary's MFA advisory panel. She has taught English and Creative Writing at various colleges and universities in Northern California. Her new book is Western Solstice by Hiraeth Press. She has won fellowships to Villa Montalvo and University of Utah for her writing.