Back to Issue Thirty-One

Skull Camp Mountain Ballad


          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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