August 25, 2021

Sarah St. Vincent

GROWN

The light fell behind the trees 
and the road slipped between our houses, 

the bricks grew warm 
with the last of each day 

and then cold. 

The difficulty 
is that I remember. 

When I was a child, I had a neighbor, 
an elderly man who taught me 

about strawberries and peas, 
who put wire around the tomatoes 

and spread fresh-cut grass 
under the corn. 

I grew older. I had books. The teachers 
loved me—I was tall and quiet 

and just plain enough 
to escape the wrong kind of notice. 

The girl across the street 

didn’t have an elderly man for a neighbor— 
she had me. 

She started out so small, 
would reach for my hand during walks 

on those evenings when the light 
fell behind the trees, 

and the air smelled of cut grass, 
and she would say, “Look!” 

pointing to the field 
where barn cats glided like shadows

and rabbits fled. 

She slept on the floor 
in her house. The pile of younger children 

woke her up all the time, and the dogs, too, 
and the people coming back from work, 

the fights, 
and she had shadows under her eyes 

and she loved us all 

too much, and the teachers didn’t like her 
and I drifted away, too, 

frightened by the power 
of that love. 

I wanted to choose my burdens. 

She grew tall and was pretty 

and didn’t escape 
notice. 

She wanted, she told me once, 
to be a nurse. To help people. 

We walked along the road 
that hung between our houses, 

the light was on us 

and she smiled under those eyes, 
bright and sleepless. 

The evening stretched before us 

and in the shape of her hand 
I was only beginning to feel the weight 

of the things I would remember.

from Rattle #72, Summer 2021
Tribute to Appalachian Poets

__________

Sarah St. Vincent: “I grew up in Newville, Pennsylvania, a small town in a valley at the northernmost end of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Childhood and young womanhood in a rural working-class community continue to shape me as a poet and a person; they’ve given me a perspective on gender and vulnerability that informs almost everything I do. Watching field after field get paved over for warehouses in the era of e-commerce has also given me a sense of urgency—I’m haunted by a need to capture what I knew, whether beautiful or lonely or difficult, when I still drove those roads every day.” (web)

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