I can’t tell what it is we leave behind.
Stories, most likely, that make our grandmothers
young again, girls like those we know
instead of women like those we don’t.
It’s hunger that makes us venture out.
Overcrowding. A pressure
like does driven mad by heat,
bucks blindly racing to find them.
Privilege is a lie of mirrors, and yet
surface means something in this world.
I don’t know how to teach you this,
so I must have faith you’ll learn. Listen:
your rage is something powerful,
and it’s not. I don’t want to be the target
but I can’t tell you how to hunt. Each copse
is our own. Each deer a private wound.
I can tell you how the women
in our family loved, and lost, and mourned
until you discern the antler felt in the plate
glass reflection just before everything is shattered.
It won’t matter. The body must still
thrust itself through blood, the rough pain.
We have to shed the things we are.
I know this. I am the shopkeeper,
constructing displays for sidewalks,
laying out the wares I think that you will like.
You will always confuse reflection and offering.
You will always hurl your soft shoulder,
break a bone. It’s not like I can keep
away the wildness in which you dwell.
We always, as we get older, build storefronts
with pretty displays and a distant view
of the hills. The dark woods. Listen:
my grandmother tells me a story. I want to tell you.
She was a girl, and ran from her parents
to tend to the needs of men. Soldiers.
Her shoes clicking with violence across the wooden floor.
We all break apart eventually. There is no funhouse
we do not know. Some of us get out.
Some don’t. We’ve never seen it close,
you and I, but we both know: the slowing heart,
the musky fur. A bone snapped and glistening,
torn through the skin. A moment of departure, or death.
Brandy McKenzie has published poems in more than three dozen literary magazines, been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and worked on the editorial boards of three different nationally distributed literary magazines. These days, she mostly works as a paralegal, teaches critical thinking and writing to community college students, and tries to provoke conversation about the alternate history she’s sure we’re entering like some sort of waking dream.
Artwork: Thomas Dodd, Elementals