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.
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,
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
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)