Daughter as a Cycle
Jo Clark

        IV.        Snag

The turkey buzzard kisses the wind with its raspberry face.
It sweeps over her head and lands on a tree nearby before
losing a feather to gravity. And for a moment, she knows it:
the feather, the sky, the bird. Or at least, knows what it’s seen,
blushing skin and inkblot eyes — it hunches on the lowest limb
and watches. She asks her father if he smells anything dead —
he shakes his head. She asks her father if he sees anything dying.

        III.         Decline      
The alphabet lives in an empty plastic bag, splayed across the tree’s
bony arms — those arms reach out to the roadkill on route twenty,
the roadkill reaches out to the car, and the car holds her. The plastic
bag twists itself cursive on the old tree’s limbs — it spells out you
in the shadow of a headlight, which is to say, it spells out her name.
By the time she asks her father if he saw anything, they have driven
far away, and she’s haunted by the words waving, the tree leaning.

        II.        Sapling     

The old blue van bursts into flame in the backyard, three days before
it will be sold for parts. A spark so sharp she can taste the heat — the
electric scent of a taillight, exploding. Her father rushes for the fire
extinguisher and she rushes for her father. They stand in the cloak of
the thicket, watching the smoke rise up with the birds and her father’s
curses. The rubber burns a toxic nostalgia, and she remembers her thighs
sticking to the seats in summer. Eyes closed, she drinks the smoke, wading.

        I.        Sprout

The field mouse lies squashed in the wake of a tire tread. She tells her
father that it’s dead — and maybe to make her feel better — that it has
been. But her father says no, that looks fresh to me. So she doubles over
the tawny body and twisted underbelly to dig a moss grave with a yellow
gloved hand, and by the time she turns to bury the mouse, her father has
picked it up by the tail and flung it into the thicket. She wants to scream
you’re coldhearted, but all her mouth can do is cry, daddy, it was so small.
Jo Clark is a student and writer born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She attends the University of Virginia as a member of the Area Program in Poetry Writing. She is the creative writing editor for V-Magazine at UVA, a senior writer for The Cavalier Daily, and a poetry reader for The Adroit Journal. She has work published or forthcoming in The Red Cedar Review, Prospectus: A Literary Offering, The Stardust Review, and Flux: Literary Magazine.


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