BY BRANDON THURMAN
Summer at dusk was a hymn
before I knew what to.
Under my covers: a dozen fireflies,
a dozen air-holes punched
by my dad’s screwdriver.
Minnows in green water
swam behind the sticky white streaks
of the pickle label I’d tried to peel
to make for them a perfect clear
home. My mom’s hand in my hair:
Sweet boy, she purred,
They’ll die in there.
Outside, the trees screamed
with pleasures I couldn’t name.
In the morning, the grass was soaked.
The creek was clogged with frog eggs.
The boy from across the ravine led me
through the culvert & into the woods.
He built us a fort from fallen branches.
I pretended it was our home & lit a fire.
In one of my mom’s pots,
I boiled crawdads in creek-water,
watched their bodies scuttle ever-backwards
from danger. I knew better than to stare
when the boy hiked further in to piss, turned
away, one hand caught in his black curls.
When he came back & sat by me,
I plucked a tick from his smooth leg.
We watched the jesus bugs
skim along the water’s skin.
It flooded that summer.
Our ravine swamped itself to the brim.
The baby water-snakes hatched
when no one was looking.
After my dad left for work,
I stripped to my underwear,
extended one foot out over the flood,
& closed my eyes. The muddy water
spurted up my nose. I scrambled out
& tried again, my face all squinched up
with faith. I didn’t wait for God’s face
to trouble the waters.
I thought a miracle took work,
a jar & a quick hand.
Something you could catch
or learn. Like skipping stones
or making a blade of grass sing.
Each time I lurched back up for breath,
the water skaters were dancing with ease
into a halo around themselves.