a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
right arm bent against the ferry’s stout frame. A mile out,
the opposite shore smears in dank expanse, sycamores
dense in the owl-dark of June. In the foreground,
heat radiates from fenders of Chevys parked
in rows of three on the deck. There is a sun so warm
you mistake it for sleep. How easily the photographer’s
gaze opens a hole in me. My great grandfather, collector
of ease, architect of routine, captured
her best in the language of her skepticism. I believe
her thoughts tilt toward the unknowable. Could
it be me, a chance reckoning with the future?
Here she is wholly present, spirited
as a child, pink headscarf tied in the shape
of a bell, so bright it rings. Her frown
deepens to a singular point and I know
what she would say, Is this not enough? She’d be right,
I’ve spent enough time peering through albums
until I see myself staring back as if I didn’t know
my own regrets—memorabilia I don’t recognize,
family that doesn’t know me. Give me the refusal
to adapt as a girl must. I’m where the self
finds another name, two generations away—
but can the heart be so sick with yearning
it cleaves blood-fat clots from its burled arteries?
Suppose I tell her where I am, how leaving
the country meant paying off my debt. I’m still
out here giving what I have to these jarred-in mornings
of stream frogs and dust. Suspended, not unlike
her, above an eventuality clouded and stirred
by current. That I have never come back. What then?
If I tell her it’s loneliness that raised me, will it mean
I can come home through buckeye-sought
roots, through the wild rye and dropseed, spread against
the night like thinning hair? Beneath the silt-heavy
willows, warm music from the eastern shore
warps forward like an under-bite. Already,
I sense myself on the other side, furred with sweat.
The ferry pulls beneath the winding of insects.
Forever, the sputtering of engines rev in the wrong gear.
Anna Leigh Knowles is the author of Conditions of The Wounded, finalist for the Brittingham and Felix Pollack Poetry Prize, published in the Wisconsin Poetry Series, 2021. Her work appears in Blackbird, Indiana Review, Memorious, The Missouri Review Online, and Tin House Online. She has received honors from the Appalachian Writers’ Workshop, the Illinois Arts Council Agency and the W.B. Yeats Society of New York. She holds an MFA from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and a BA from University of Colorado.