That long, ugly winter over, I still can’t
put aside the death of the young giraffe
at Copenhagen, shot by keepers
while he lipped chunks of rye bread
in the zoo. And I’m sad because
you’re always lying—today you call to say
you’re mad with pain from kidney stones
the size of walnuts and since you can’t have
painkillers, you’ve asked the doctor again
for the methadone our father has begged
she not prescribe. I cry for the stones,
which don’t exist and which you say
may take months to pass and for your
mutilating need, which does and will never.
I can’t walk the prettiest road
in our neighborhood this spring—the one
with flowering trees that rain pink
blossoms that brown almost before
they hit the ground and fill the air
with a scent like dying jasmine
and star fruit—because a rabbit lies
melting into a tuft of grass in front
of one house unrented since March.
Did you know after they culled
that healthy calf, wrong
for the breeding scheme, they fed
his body to lions while a crowd watched
from behind a fence? I can’t look too long
at little boys at the grocery store, the park,
with freckled cheeks like yours and curly
hair so thick and cut so short it looks like fur.
Did you know the Danish word for poison
is gift? You tried heroine at fourteen.
What did you want? You nuzzled from some
sweet hand while another you couldn’t detect
reached around to seize your slender neck.
STILL LIFE WITH GEESE AND OXYCONTIN
Brother, we heard your hunger cries; we rose
to bring your milk. Now you eat pills
and sleep with skinny women, blue ghosts
of other men’s names inked on their breastbones.
We kindled to sounds of your keening will.
Brother, we heard your hunger cries and rose.
Dad told us years ago the bird let loose
at the back of that deep V is feeble,
that he’ll wing toward a flock of ghosts
till sister, mother, father from him go
and, like breath, his own unsung will
evaporates. Brother, you cried. We rose,
and rise, at least as far as wishing goes
(although you strut and stagger, steal
and stick around). So like our own your ghosts,
your hollow honking song. We can’t let go.
Neither can we stay, hover still,
abide your hungry cries. And if we rose
to ours, what then of you, oh brother, ghost?
Melissa Crowe earned her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and her Ph.D. in English from the University of Georgia. Her work has appeared in journals like Atlanta Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Seneca Review, and her second chapbook, Girl, Giant, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013. She’s co-editor of Beloit Poetry Journal and lives in Asheville, NC with her husband, Mark, and their daughter, Annabelle.