In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Hazel Run, and: Catherine’s Furnace, and: The Quarry, and: XXX, and: Flash, and: You Got to Pray to the Lord When You See Those Flying Saucers
  • Heather Derr-Smith (bio)

There was a pagination error in the print version of this article. Three lines of text on page 116 were moved to the top of page 117. The online version has been corrected.

Hazel Run

I just entered you, he said. Like name it and claim it.     The preacher on the radio winds his black stole     around your eyes. Small red clots of

language between my legs. This is where the girl was found. Hot Tramp.

Down at the creek, carrying so much blood during the Battle of the  Wilderness,

the swollen banks burst. The children knew this history by instinct,       war between brothers. Your body

just obeyed, crouch and clinch, the reflex against another body

in its strike.

Before the violence of adulthood was the violence of childhood and before that a whole history of bloodshed as inheritance. We waded in the shallow waters, the flash and stab of pyrite

   and sunlight and the strike of the flint in our hands, all of it

exploded ordnance, tracers of bullets to mark a place       deeply as only war does.

We were always injured down there in our woods, in the waters of our  creek, ankles serrated, braceleted in barbed wire, our fingers stippled [End Page 111]

from the pincers of the crawdads we caught and released,    drops of our cells like blotches of ink on the wet pebbles,

seeping into the sparkling sand. I went back and mapped it out

with GPS. Nothing had changed. Same dogwoods, same groove of  trench and mounds,

the ghosts of us, still barefoot in the water,

same breath-hold break-point, same drown. [End Page 112]

Catherine’s Furnace

There were diamonds in the ground beneath us   formed out of the volcanic rock, hidden in the smelting mines. We could feel them, pulsing, pinging like radar into our prayers.

Ours was a family of seekers, pickax and lust, searching    for a substitution, some bread and wine for what was lost.

My mother’s Jesus and Reagan, my stepfather’s beer and secretaries, their joint quest for catharsis in lusts and fistfights, head-butt and  pulled hair, the sawdust trail of the tent revival.

I know one thing. I was worth beating down, a pulp. Someone wanted me so damn bad, like a desire that was desperate, hog-tied. Didn’t it feel like some kind of love, baby girl, rabbit-punched?

I found out years later, my real father hunted butterflies like Nabokov, the blue ones, all over North America, aerial net in his delicate hands, cabinets of fastened apex, thorax pinched between thumb and forefinger, scent of naphthalene.

He would spend days lost in the Paris museum, drawers sliding open  and shut, rustle of pearl-bordered forewings and blue crenulated hindwings, tiny scales on his fingers and palms in lustrous dust.

I imagined them coming in waves to the New World.

I didn’t know who my father was; he’d just gone one day when I was very young, a throbbing in my neck, cervical vertebra burst. [End Page 113] Under the seraph’s beat, a deflagration of the self, burning away to  suck it all in, something never there from the beginning, irretrievable

  as the dead, lingering, the way the dead do in resistance,     like the ticks we burned with a match. Or the startle  of recognition when the mockingbird sings and flies away    and then you grow weary with the song and come to know

it was just an imitation of some other beast.

What you thought was there, substantial, was just the wind’s thickly veined limbs in the false indigo.

Nabokov said nature was a form of magic, like art.

The grub-bored holes in the moth’s wings, imitating a leaf,       enchantment and deception, he said.

My home was no-man’s-land, perfume of magnolias in the dusk. The prophet said, Put hot coals on your head.

Make love out of the kick and the punch. Make beauty out of cunt, a glowing ember...


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