Back to Issue Twenty-Nine.

A Catalogue of Distances

BY ANNALISE LOZIER
Finalist for the 2019 Adroit Prize for Poetry

 

It was still months before she would learn
how to be ashamed of me; the day we stood together

on the banks of an unnamed creek. And the difference
grew between us. There was a sound,

a goose sound, I said, a squabbling, feathery neck. She said
it was a scream. That the presence of our ears

in that place obligated us. Here, where the moss
stood up in hills and fell into valleys

beneath us. We left and reentered
gravity as we walked, the path

that began behind four feet of rotting, blue fence
to the snout of grass where the creek was

cold and quick and the roots of trees
could be climbed down like a ladder. Whole trunks

greened with slime beneath the water, as holy and as silent
as a shipwreck. She took my hand.

These days, when I look for the creek on maps
to prove there was someplace she loved me,

that it split the highway and emptied
the lakes from left to right; there’s no overpass

even in memory. And the creek was just us
running. The cabin another hill crumbling

in the near distance. Through the broken screen door, a pair
of plastic sunglasses atop their rotted bureau. She cleared the spiders

from the lenses and set them on her nose.
When was the last time you lost

your breath? I asked. Two asthmatics in a river bed,
she said, and what do they ask?

Whether we are obliged to the thing that has cried
into the silence of this place. She gave no answer, just

the posthumous buildup to a punchline. Along
the bank. Past the snarl of branches,

the moving blanket with its moldy sheen, the decay
hanging heavy and sweet. On her skin. In the pocket

of her cheek. I lost her there, and waited
in the kind of aloneness that means nothing. The crayfish

green and the tadpoles silver. I took my shirt off
and my socks, went knee deep where the mud

cleared from my shins and I pulled snails
from their flat-bellied rocks. Where there was wonder

in the aloneness. In my pink bra and jean shorts
in the water torn clear of dust. An hour passed

and she returned to me, bearing in her arms
a chunk of ice, the size of a child’s head. From our premature

heat. We walked, and the geese lifted at once
from the creek. It didn’t take much

to set our world quaking, those days, she would tell me
how much she loved me, forgetting

that nothing can withstand expectation, least of all love.
Cradling her changeling’s head. And we quaked

as the birds took off. She wanted
to save the scream. I wanted her

to want to save me. Where the banks
turned to marsh, and we climbed the arched trunks

of fallen white birches. We held hands.
Bridging the water and its underlay

of leaves. A year from now I’ll think
that this is what happens

to girls who believe the land is their prophet. And ask
if she remembers the morning

the mist rolled out, and the stump whose mushrooms
outgrew it. If she wonders what snails

have since come to roost on the banks
of the unnamed creek.

But she’s off digging up someone
else’s spoons now, beneath another porch. Pushing on windows

from the outside, she sheds paint
but she doesn’t budge. I stepped from the spine

of the white birch, up to my ankles
and in my sneakers, and I held her hand

as she crossed from carcass
to carcass. She looked down to me.

I’m so young, she said, but I’ve been a creek
for all my life;

you are the water that flows through
me, and you’re the trash that’s left behind.

Annalise Lozier is an undergraduate English major at Yale University. Her work has been recognized by the Poetry Society, the National YoungArts Foundation, and the Luminarts Cultural Foundation, and has appeared in publications including The Kenyon Review, The Adroit Journal, and The Yale Literary Magazine. For more information on Annalise and her work, you can visit her website at www.annaliselozier.squarespace.com.

 

Next (Daniel Blokh) >

< Previous (Karisma Price)