The towns of my childhood sloped
across the shoulders of the state
like the fringe of a shawl
curving across the heart,
towns sheltered among red-clay hills
where the Appalachians knelt down,
mist rising like supplication
as they stretched out their hands,
spread fingers to form banks of rivers
with names like Coosa, Tallapoosa,
Etowah, and of lakes named Purdy
and Guntersville and Alexander,
and the smaller bodies of water
we children loved: Harper’s Branch,
Buck Creek, and the creek with no name,
the one where we challenged each other,
members of The Girls’ Adventure Club–
No Boys Allowed, to walk the log
that spanned the banks, the one we knew
that Linda was afraid to cross.
From our stance of success, we looked
at her through the fringe of our lashes,
a silent, measuring squint. Her shoulders
drooped, and she sank to her knees,
eyes clouded with a moisture
that began to lift as she stretched out
upon the fallen tree, fingers clutching
the rough bark. Pulling herself along,
pushing with her feet,
she reached the other side.
This poem won 1st Honorable Mention in the 2008 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets’ Triad contest, Theme: Water.
Used here with the author’s permission.