“Halfway House for the Incoherent” by Jennifer Gresham

Jennifer Gresham


She gathered them from the edges
of cities like wildflowers,
gave them each a glass of water.
When she tried drawing a map,
it turned into a tangle of roots.
In their hands, compass needles
flew in circles like a flock
of frightened birds. So they stayed—
wandered aimlessly through her garden,
the graveyard with all its lovely,
loose stones. They shared the habit
of constantly licking their lips.

The papers said she was running
some kind of cult, but that wasn’t true.
There were no fences, nor any
conversations at dinner. She told them
stories at night of following the train
tracks all the way from Kansas
to the ocean. They couldn’t understand,
so she had them draw their fingers
down the bone of her arm. Like this,
she said, but straighter.

from Rattle #29, Summer 2008

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