Skull Camp Mountain Ballad
BY NICOLE STOCKBURGER
That year the deepest blue would break overhead. Killdeer on fence posts, your hair in violent curls again. I would learn the bones in my body that would save me would shatter the South I was raised in. What were the trees in the farmhouse yard. The altar of dill I would give to you. Not right now, the irises have just begun to rise from the graves of sore bulbs. Summer licking our feet as we once drank in the lightning bugs at night. Drank in each other's slow peaks. If a mountain was an opening, I had not yet crossed the rivers to close this longing I keep still like a stone. If a lowland field, a pale wrist under power lines. I was seeking both you and a frame that resembled mine. Not just yet, not what was to come. The cat would leave coins of blood wherever she went. I would pool furrows like a mountain. The sky does not pray, you said. The sky does not ask to be drenched. I would shout to be filled with flowers and sap. Desperate to place my faith somewhere. That year I would move beside you, work to cicada music, like a stone lifted in a steady hand and shaking, as it returns to another place in the creek.
Nicole Stockburger is the author of Nowhere Beulah, winner of the Unicorn Press First Book Award (2019). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, The Journal, Frontier Poetry, and Michigan Quarterly Review, among others. The recipient of an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Nicole lives in NC foothills, where she and her partner are the farmers of York Farm.
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