The Incalculable Loss of a Small Thing
The ring left on the edge of a motel sink,
a dress gone from its hanger,
sweet pea shuttering its blooms at summer’s end—
absence insists on announcing itself.
Forgiveness: another way to purge.
I prayed Just this once—
When I call my dad, I hear his replies first
from my stepmother in the background,
and second from him, parroting them into the receiver.
Sometimes, measuring distance in miles makes things easier.
He never mentions what he must see daily:
the wiry threads of pigment in an iris,
blood vessels branching in silhouette,
milky ghosts blooming in the lens.
If I had the courage, I would tell him
there is no reason to shoot a coyote
for being a coyote.
I would tell him there is no tunnel of my heart
that hasn’t been picked clean.
Another Small Failure
In this season of scarcity, compassion also wanes.
Silver is nice, for a while.
The boy on my porch mutters an apology.
He doesn’t really mean it, and I don’t really forgive him.
A weather-faded ribbon twirls up a bare branch of the Crabapple,
and dead leaves knit together in the gap of the sliding doors.
In your church, I am an outsider, a visitor
who doesn’t know the hymns or repetitions,
who is not allowed to take the Eucharist
and who shies, as unbroken horses do, from hands on my forehead.
The yellow-tiled tunnel out of Portland is no portal,
no reason to hold one’s breath, and it’s easy to forget
how the smells seep into everything:
the acrid reek of a lumbermill, the dairy farms,
mildew feeding on mild rain, mild warmth.
The magic is gone from this place,
enchanted forest of my memory turned sodden, tepid.
There is no one to blame for this but me.
Everything has shrunk since the last time I was here:
the yard, the distance between landmarks, my grandmother
in her fleece pajamas, her skin grub-white and three sizes too large.
Seeing her naked is like seeing an unclothed child.
There is no reason to look away but I do.
Without snow, the Christmas decorations hang gaudy and sad.
I keep staring at a white wooden sleigh, its sides the shape of swans.
This home was my home, once, but hasn’t been for years,
and being here reminds me of all my fears,
reminds me they were true; we were white trash, like my father said.
The attic my sister and I explored as children is rotted now,
its steps no longer an adventure—just steps, dusty and narrow.
Even the apple tree has fallen on hard times.
Leaving, I note the Cadillac’s window, cracked half-open,
leaves and rain and debris washed across the dash.
Author Bio: Natalie Homer is the author of the chapbook Attic of the Skull (dancing girl press). Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in The Journal, the minnesota review, Blue Earth Review, The Pinch, The Lascaux Review, Ruminate, Salamander, Cosmonauts Avenue, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and others. She earned an MFA from West Virginia University and lives in southwestern Pennsylvania.