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Poetry: Suburbia Broke the Pastoral

On a crisp October day,

my daughter is painting Nature

in the kitchen

by the screened glass door.


Her grandmother is out

side, hanging up

electrical fence around the garden

like Christmas tree lights.

The squash are already

tucked, surrendered.

The laundry, soiled,

is nearly done.


I have raised my daughter too well.

She scolds the other children

with hands full of dirt.

She is full of nutrients her body, not

her own, learned to use

before she knew

their wellsprings.


Her paintings seem to break

my heart so cleanly.

Her deer in the meadow are figures

in scotch-tape grass, one straight line after another.

Her country road barrels, colonizes.

Her trees are a plastic green

and an egg-thick round,

mocking the bare limbs rot-gummed and whimpering

past the screened door

on her right side.


Outside, her father rakes leaves into a pile.

A big black bag waiting to take

them away to the penitentiary.

Shwack shwack

And I sigh

and I long

for a hope

of vowels

as soft

as its sound.


I wish I could show her the bluestem, the

goldenrod, the tallgrass.

But I sip my coffee, watch myself grow old.


She colors with crayons.

She will only ever think things come like this.

Concentrated, siphoned, color-clean

and industry-bright.

So lull me to sleep

in the lilacs with lies.

Soft-rot my gums too.

Let me make myself mud

until I hear nothing at all.


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