Back to Issue Seventeen.

when they say you can’t go home again, what they mean is you were never there


Maybe it’s time to celebrate the hideous. Not
to confess with some hope for absolution,
but to gather all the terrible selves and minutes
and show them the trees, and the way the rain

has just abated so the air has ocean in it
though we’re dry and waiting. Part of me died here
so another could go on. The body I raised
and abandoned still walking the path on the hill
where I became larger than myself and the day

could no longer contain me. Turns out, dust
can also recompose itself, a starfish arm</span?
or lizard tail. What I cut off kept walking
without me, remembering the fireflies</span?
on the broad lawn and plastic cups

in dormitory basements, the tea house
and everything I made sure to forget
or shamelessly left in pursuit of the shining
next. I wish I could say everything I’ve done

and still be loved. I believe it is possible,
if I could remember it all and give it
mouth, neglected teeth, tongue, the ways
I’ve learned to breathe as if I were always
singing. I feel this enormous debt to the world

for letting me exist and do all the damage
my living requires. I’m hungry
and the tea is cold, the hill is a hill
no matter who I am. It will take a long time
to say the everything, and already

some are turning away. It’s hard
work, witnessing at a birth. Blood
everywhere, and the awful quiet
between the screaming. You can bring

your everything too, we’re making
the dirt arable again, we’re burying
our shit like animals do and tomorrow
there will be a garden ringed
with lemon trees though by then

we’ll be on our way gone. For luck,
afterbirth under the single poplar.
All the stopping and starting, interruptions
of prayer. Language as vehicle
and impediment. All the lives

before this one, practice. Is that a castle
in your elbow? My clavicle’s made
of mud. I’m trying to tell you
about my fear. A door opening

in another room. The way light changes
after rain, the air around a body after sweat.
I’m not finished yet. Somebody
kiss me now, right on the garden.
Everything’s coming up green.

Marty McConnell lives in Chicago, Illinois, where she coaches individuals and groups toward building thriving, sustainable lives and organizations. An MFA graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, her work has recently appeared in Best American Poetry 2014, Southern Humanities Review, Gulf Coast, and is forthcoming in Compose and Nashville Review. Her first full-length collection, wine for a shotgun, was published by EM Press.

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