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      by Trumbull Stickney
      It’s autumn in the country I remember
      How warm a wind blew here about the ways!
      And shadows on the hillside lay to slumber
      During the long sun-sweetened summer-days.
      It’s cold abroad the country I remember.
      The swallows veering skimmed the golden grain
      At midday with a wing aslant and limber;
      And yellow cattle browsed upon the plain
      It’s empty down the country I remember.
      I had a sister lovely in my sight:
      Her hair was dark, her eyes were very sombre;
      We sang together in the woods at night.
      It’s lonely in the country I remember.
      The babble of our children fills my ears,
      And on our hearth I stare the perished ember
      To flames that show all starry thro’ my tears.
      It’s dark about the country I remember.
      There are the mountains where I lived. The path
      Is slushed with cattle-tracks and fallen timber,
      The stumps are twisted by the tempests’ wrath.
      But that I knew these places are my own,
      I’d ask how came such wretchedness to cumber
      The earth, and I to people it alone.
      It rains across the country I remember.
      by Catherine Doty
      Your friends won’t try to talk you out of the barrel,
      or your brag to go first, which has nothing to do with bravery.
      And you’re so hungry to earn their love you forget
      to claim first your, perhaps, last look at this mountain-
      crab apples hanging sour in the sun, abandoned Buick,
      a favorite place to play, dismantled and weathered
      and delicate as a voting booth. Instead you dive straight away
      and headfirst into darkness, the steel drum that dusts you,
      like a chicken part, with rust. Looking out, there’s nothing
      to see of your friends but their calves, which are scabby,
      and below them the filthy sneakers, shifting, shifting,
      every foot aching to kick you off this cliff.
      Their faces, you know, are blank with anticipation,
      the look you see when they watch TV eating popcorn.
      They’re already talking about you as if you’re gone,
      as if you boarded a bus and roared out of earshot,
      when one foot flashes forward and launches you.
      You know as you feel that first solid slam you are lost.
      The barrel changes shape with each crash to earth,
      as you will later, assuming and losing lives, but this
      is so true now: ankles flayed to the bone, cracked ribs
      and crushed mint, the brittle, pissy sumac. Right now
      the pin oaks are popping in their sockets, the hillside
      wears your shoes, clouds pleat and buck. You know, of course,
      that no one’s going second, and friends who tell this story
      will use the word idiot, rolling their hands in the air,
      but you know you know what your life is for now and rise up,
      and just about scalp yourself on that tree limb above you,
      another thing you couldn’t possibly know was coming,
      another which, like your first breath, was not your idea.
      by Lucille Clifton
      when I watch you
      wrapped up like garbage
      sitting, surrounded by the smell
      of too old potato peels
      or when I watch you
      in your old man’s shoes
      with the little toe cut out
      sitting, waiting for your mind
      like next week’s grocery
      I say when I watch you
      you wet brown bag of a woman
      who used to be the best looking gal in Georgia
      used to be called the Georgia Rose
      I stand up through your destruction
      I stand up