OXIDANT | ENGINE : Issue 1

Caitlin Scarano

His Stained Hands

 

dear gone:

 

our hardwood floor kind of love

was a bird

 

happy for a season

 

between the wires

and then taken

from her cage by the widowtree

 

our paths were always bound to fork

 

your childhood was a rope swing

a cool glass of milk

a yellow dog running through snow

 

while my own was all sound –

the nighttrain pressing

his bearded face to my window

rattling the house with stained hands

 

the pleasing sharpness of my mother's

shovel cutting into wet dirt and the drag

of her father's feet outside the den

 

like her I grew up against a current:

his smell his hands his anger

 

I've been thinking a lot about getting sober

been really thinking about it

since you left

but the man in the moon never

shows his face I only hear him

 

laughing

 

you know my father never made it

 

I like to think my mother keeps a bone for him

like I do for you

small wrapped in a baby blue dishtowel

 

some years she didn't think of it at all

 

but some years she'd take it

 

from her dresser drawer surprised

to find it still humming there

next to her daughters'

lost teeth and hair

The houses where they eat the lambs

 

Wishbone, forked bone

between the neck and breast of a bird

 

but we are not the bird. Nor the feather, nor

the stone that brought her warm

 

body down. I am the weak point, a snap,

furcular crack. You are the wish mouthed

 

against a wall of air. Worm between the ribs.

Smeared blood above a door. Dedication

 

takes many forms. We stand by these

baby-bleached altars. Gather veins like soft

 

blue thread in a basket of skin. To not harm

others is not enough. I want to love you

 

so much that you have no before. No mother,

no bower, no history of burning doors.

 

The sea with her rising wet ash. To be marrow

intimate. A crime committed

 

squatting among the reeds. Add grit

to the skin for texture. Crouch like a toad

 

beneath the bowl of your skull

and turn the skeleton key in your eye.

 

Lover, we will know no neighbors. No light

beyond the teeth of a laughing loon.  

Caitlin Scarano is a poet in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee PhD creative writing program. Her poem "Mule" was selected for the Best New Poets 2016 anthology. Her recent work can be found in Granta, Crazyhorse, and Ninth Letter. Her debut collection of poems will be released in Fall 2017 by Write Bloody Publishing.