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My Natural History

ISSUE:  Spring 2006

This is how my father will tell it:
he is a young man, not even twenty,
driving down a road in Arizona with my mother
and searching for the place where they will park,
put their backs to cool June grass,
and lie naked together for the first time.
In his mind he is also another man:
one in the last few weeks of his dying,
and in his end he finds himself wondering
over their naked bodies in the field from above
as broken aloe weeps a sharp green perfume.
He marvels at the brown geography of her hair,
the order of her fingers in moonlight like thin lit stones.
He feels the first tremor, sees himself
shift over, begins again in the rift
of red stone that opens between them.
The rocks push through layers of sediment and he
crosses the pale borders of shale plates and limbs,
a mountain rising in her hip and his future
spiraling in a fossil of white shell. The water
is rising up now to run its dark course:
the water will wear her form for years.
As the gap yawns wider, it is this history
he chooses to remember:
a young woman, not even twenty,
reclining in the grass and the distance.
The blade of a river flowing between them
in which their daughter is being carried away.


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