DIRT, LIKE A LOVER'S HAND ON THE SMALL OF MY BACK
In North Carolina, the last summer of my childhood
drought, I pressed my hands into an oil slick
of ultisol, learned pressure makes things bigger.
Nearby a blue farmhouse crumbled in on itself
and half-filled dump trucks stood sentry. My hands
smelled of clay and copper earth, glittered red,
and my mark stayed all summer, while
crabgrass died and ground fissured. I walked
by daily looking at my handprints, so much like
raccoon tracks in the creek bed, so much like
the Caterpillar tracks of heavy equipment
that leaked oil where a chimney used to be.
In Iowa, I plunged my hands into midnight
memories of prairie burns and wanted to leave
them there til harvest. Under starry skies, in prairies
of knee-high corn, I dreamed awake of bison
thundering open savannah, of how the land would look
covered by Big Bluestem, by sunflower, by swarms
of birds blotting out the heavens. I rolled west,
found volcanic rock that turned the horizon black
and prone to slides, found whispers of snow
on the Cascades in mid-August and rocks run smooth
by forgotten rivers. In southern Oregon, autumn smells of sage
and lavender, of hope golden as the trembling aspen
that blanket whole hillsides. Here, the horizon snowboards
on the flanks of mountains and the soil leaves silk
when rubbed between fingers, smells of fire.
I clambered the rim of Crater Lake, one snowy
November day, a blanket greying trees, bringing twilight
two hours early and from one rocky
precipice, I considered tumbling toward the lake,
because that seemed something like permanence.
Liz N. Clift holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Iowa State University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The MacGuffin, Women Arts Quarterly Journal, The Postcard Press, and others. She lives in Oregon.