Again I return to that leaning barn of whitewash
and wind-warped rafters, weathervane that never spun,
rim-rust that rejected our free-throws and hovered,
a ratty halo, over the tenuous forts of February—
so much repacked snowmelt shadowed by that
squatters’ shack where they fought over how long
our mother would outlast a rural doc’s diagnosis.
When in my seventh year they came with stretchers
and sirens, we waited in the truck. You distracted me
with the atlas from the glove box, how finely it unfolded
like all the tomorrows I sensed were not to come.
But it’s the barn I remember, whistling like a cavity
at the end of our drive. And most of all, that you
heard it, too. That you heard it, but did not flinch.
Ragweed that grew around silos, dead snakes
between turnip rows, the gnats who rose in waves
from the knife-edge of sun and field: all these
went before us. So, too, she who clipped coupons
and made us wear our stocking caps no matter
how it mussed our hair. Brother, I lied when I said
I didn’t notice the baby’s fist of your lymph nodes,
over-swell of white blood cells roused to fight
what isn’t there. This is the only way I know
to repay you: to hide my dumb lies, and this poem,
and these pagan tears, until the last barn owl
shrivels to dust and it no longer matters to do so.
Michael Meyerhofer’s third book, Damnatio Memoriae, won the Brick Road Poetry Book Contest. His previous books are Blue Collar Eulogies (Steel Toe Books) and Leaving Iowa (winner of the Liam Rector First Book Award). He has also won the James Wright Poetry Award, the Laureate Prize, the Annie Finch Prize for Poetry, the Marjorie J. Wilson Best Poem Contest, and five chapbook prizes. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, North American Review, Arts & Letters, River Styx, Quick Fiction and other journals, and can be read online at www.troublewithhammers.com. He is the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review.