Natalie Homer


Snow in the air              but not on the ground
and daffodils clustered beneath town welcome signs
                                          and on freeway exits
planted tenderly by someone                maybe years ago.

Pale sunset        a soufflé             of clouds and light
and the Susquehanna appears out of nowhere
under the bridge beneath us                    just as vast
and even more beautiful           than any of my western rivers.

There are these things
and then there is the horse        they electrocuted
                              in front of an audience
to find out if they could kill people that way, too.

What is there to do      other than take note
of the trespasses          and try not to trespass ourselves.
Soon, the magnolia will make a tender offering
of magenta blossoms

crafted like origami
                             to be released on the wind.
But what do I have to give?
What do I have                           to give?


My watch clicks its steady, meaningless rhythm
against a face of flowers and bees,

out of place against the matchstick trees,
powdered sky, drifted snow.

This midwinter evening, the Monongalia
has chosen to adorn itself in light olive green.

Though she’s never said it, I think my mother would agree:
there’s something sacred about a river.

In my birthday card she tucked an old photo—
sun in our eyes, and in the background:

a field that’s now a subdivision,
a hill that’s been on fire before.

She sent a ring of my grandmother’s
in a tiny jewelry box shaped like a frog,

big enough to hold only that one item,
as if it swallowed the yellow gold, the tiny diamond.

What happened to the wildness that used to spike
through my veins for no reason,

driving alone some summer evening?
Tonight, crossing the river again, I feel the inverse

as if the bill has come due, and I’m just now paying
for the high from years ago.

Natalie Homer is the author of Under the Broom Tree (Autumn House Press). Her recent poetry has been published in Puerto del Sol, American Literary Review, Four Way Review, Ruminate, Sou’wester, and others. She received an MFA from West Virginia University and lives in southwestern Pennsylvania.