“There Are Other Things I’d Like to Explain” by Amanda Gaines

Amanda Gaines


As girls, our mother tied us into our Sunday dresses 
like she was solving a math problem. She taught us how to be
still, lifting our spine strings, pretty marionettes,
cheeks palm-print rosy. I’d like to explain why
you’ll want to be held  
by the neck, why the things you don’t say
will line your ribs like blue china.  
I’d like to explain why 
unearned love will feel like the finger of a boy
snapping your first bra strap, 
why that baby copperhead beneath the zucchini leaves
could have killed us faster than its mother. 
I’d like to explain why perfume looks best in round bottles,
why a bee goes where it goes. 
I’d like to explain why when you draw blood 
from him, and him, and the other, 
his expression will look like a sunset.
But for today, blow the dandelion and don’t wish.
Trace the parachute’s descent with a white-gloved hand.
Lift the teacup to your lips, careful. Adjust 
your straw hat. Sit up straight
like your mother taught you. Press a hand to your cheek.
A daydream: in the distance, a house is on fire.
Foxes cry in the night. Or maybe, 
a woman screaming.  

from Rattle #72, Summer 2021
Tribute to Appalachian Poets


Amanda Gaines: “Even when I’m not writing about West Virginia, bits of flora find their way in. I just moved to Oklahoma to get my PhD. The first thing I noticed upon leaving home was how short the trees were, how low-slung the hills ran. That kind of openness leaves little room for mystery. A poem, I think, should be curious. A surprise, a discovery. West Virginia’s landscape lends itself to finding. Most writing has to do with place, at least a little. My whole life has been spent inside Appalachia, and I’m still finding wonder in whippoorwills, in silver minnows, in blackberry thickets along the highway. Now more than ever, I find myself revisiting the mountains in my prose. There’s some strange magic that comes from living in a place so often forgotten, a place hidden. There’s a quiet wildness that can be found in West Virginia. My poetry, at its best, tries to preserve this. Fireflies in a jar, the fuzzy blooms on zucchini, the way red clay dries in cracked hands.”

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