Poem: “Tenor of the River”

Here’s my poem, published in the Spring 2012 issue of The Los Angeles Review: 

Tenor of the River

Don stumbles out of the barn, crying Sarah, the reaper, the reaper! His breath catches, sputters like river rapids. His shredded work gloves hang off his wrists and bob in the wind. He toddles to me, weeping, my new husband weeping, cradles his bleeding hands before me. The fingers neatly clipped, palms shaved in a diagonal cut, orphaned thumb. He murmurs through the hanging locks of his hair, some shadowless thing, some shadowless thing.

His hands still bleed like the first day. He sleeps constantly, lets the blood drip down the unraveling thread of his bandages into a basin on the floor. As I rub his shoulders, he murmurs, never above the whisper of a distant river, they burn, they burn like something’s breathing on them. I dress in his overalls to muck out the stables. My hands shake as I shovel up the wet bedding. When the sheep dog noses in, I kick him until he flees.

You want me to die. You want them to eat me. He works his jaw around the toast, leaves the eggs, pushes my hands away. He once beat unconscious the bear that had maimed two children. He pisses himself when my mother and I enter. My mother takes out the sheets. I help him change his clothes, unravel his bandages. At the sink I hear her murmur over the river of water, It’s got its hold on him; it’ll go for his heart. I think, if his heart is no longer mine, take it.

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