You might tell yourself you want to leave. Hell,
you might want to leave. This town, this stinking town,
the woods and cornfields that lured you from home
late at night while your parents slept, bulldozed
for strip malls and surface parking. Once you could lie
in the tall grass with the boy you loved, the deer
just feet away, and never be found. You haven’t been
kissed like that in years, pressed to the earth in a place
you called nowhere because there was nothing
to fence in. You might have dreamt it except for
the details: the taste of drugstore wine, the speckled
fawn staring, not even flicking an ear. Acorns
pinged a barn roof and rolled in the gutters
like arcade pinballs. Bats darted at the treeline,
half-drunk, hungry for your hair. Face it, your life
is not what it was. The boy you loved is a dozen
years behind you, whatever that translates to in miles.
He’s married to someone else and has a daughter,
and so do you. His parents don’t live in the house
you crept to, the house in the sticks. Teenagers now
can’t have what you had in this town—nowheres
all along Old 3-C highway, hawks appearing wherever
you went like a talisman, the crickets in stereo,
tricking you into believing they had you surrounded.
But the creek still runs cold behind the house
where your parents raised you, where they live,
and the deer still find their way to the backyard
somehow, deep in the suburbs. They materialize
behind the house and just as quickly, they’re gone.
I’m your guide here. In the evening-dark
morning streets, I point and name.
Look, the sycamores, their mottled,
paint-by-number bark. Look, the leaves
rusting and crisping at the edges.
I walk through Schiller Park with you
on my chest. Stars smolder well
into daylight. Look, the pond, the ducks,
the dogs paddling after their prized sticks.
Fall is when the only things you know
because I’ve named them
begin to end. Soon I’ll have another
season to offer you: frost soft
on the window and a porthole
sighed there, ice sleeving the bare
gray branches. The first time you see
something die, you won’t know it might
come back. I’m desperate for you
to love the world because I brought you here.
Maggie Smith’s first book, Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005), won the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award. She is also the author of two chapbooks, Nesting Dolls (Pudding House, 2005) and The List of Dangers (Kent State University Press, 2010). Her second book manuscript was recently a finalist for the 2011 National Poetry Series. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, The Iowa Review, The Gettysburg Review, Massachusetts Review, Indiana Review, and many other journals and anthologies. She is the recipient of two Academy of American Poets Prizes, three grants from the Ohio Arts Council, and, most recently, fellowships from the NEA and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She blogs for the Kenyon Review and works as a freelance writer and editor.