She left for good one time
but came back.
She let her hair grow long
and the greys come in.
Nobody ever asked about it,
but she left for good one time.
She followed the fence line out,
the grass dry and rust-tipped
where it chased her calves.
She was wearing the wrong shoes
and no socks either, but she’d left,
and it was for good. Two does started
from their beds under a chokecherry.
They cleared the top wire of the fence
almost before she’d seen them
and kept moving into the trees
by the ditch. She was going
and she was gone, mosquitos tracking
her shoulder blades, ringing her ankles.
She kept the fence line to her left
and the creek to her right as she left
(for good, for better or worse)
the dishes and whatever had been said
at dinner—the whole damn dinner!
She was leaving, she was
and was and was, the smell of her
falling under sagebrush, no wind yet,
and the sun not down. You’ll take what God gives you,
they said, as her children wriggled
beside her and the last bite on her plate
gave her the fisheye. But she’d left
for good, and the creek agreed,
flashing the last acre until it slid
under the single barbed strand
that marked the neighbor’s land,
and someone else called
someone else in to supper.
It would be bedtime soon,
the nighthawks buzzing the trees
for insects, their chicks
lodged among river stones below.
It had been for good when she left,
all of it, she knew, and also
that someone would need a last drink
of water now, and a song from when you were little.
someone would need
to touch her hair, to pat it softly
until sleep came this time
and for good.
ANNA ROSS’s first collection of poems, If a Storm, won the Robert Dana–Anhinga Prize for Poetry. She is also the author of two chapbooks--Figuring and Hawk Weather—and her work has received fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Vermont Studio Center, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Squaw Valley Poetry Workshop. She teaches in the Writing, Literature & Publishing program at Emerson College.