Geography is Linear & A Matter of Survival

Geography is Linear
Robin Anne Reid 

The Bus is long and lean along straight grey roads.
My body is used to motion and cramps
but I'd rather ride as I used to
or walk the road, get some sense
of the earth, pace by foot by mile.

The map is flat, balanced
on my knees, the Rand Road Atlas.
I plot my trip from Vermont
to Washington. I don't want to fall
off the page and end up
back on the east coast.
Everything's too small,
the states, the fields, the people
crammed in close and tight,
their speech clipped and strangely vowelled.
A Matter of Survival
Robin Anne Reid 

Face, shoulders, hips
broad and big-boned,
you loom on my horizon.
You fed the men, the sheep,
the horses, the children.
Then, walking down the fields
in the spring of the year,
you set poison
for prairie dogs and rats.
Holding a can full of oats
soaked in arsenic
you left a spoonful
at each burrow.
Your hands and forearms red,
you plucked chickens
and drowned the orphan kittens.

Blood drained from your body
at each birth. You buried
one stillborn daughter in summer,
watched a five-year-old son die.
Dry blood stains the clothing
I once found in your old trunk.
I wonder:
             a lamb, a child, or a chicken?

I have your clothes, a Bible
packed away, the language Welsh.
I cannot understand your religion.
What were you looking for?
The old pictures tell me nothing.
I am lost in the present,
cut off from family,
searching for reassurance in relics.
The stories hold. the flesh fails.

Robin Anne Reid is a retired English professor who enjoys having the time to work on her critical and creative work, especially revisiting poetry which was her first love.

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