Heirloom

Caitlin Roach

i.to begin therewas always the songand there was not. theseventeen-year cicadaswing that summer flungfrom wet branches whichshook by their swellinghiss lowing louder each nightin the chorus trees, their stiffhusks becoming skeletonveils through which thewind would later quip.I spent the whole of thatsummer bent overthe litter, sifting the hulls,lifting the whole onesfrom the ground withtweezers’ teeth I slidthrough the back slitwhere it left itself andarranged on my deska scene to make themlook alive. show me a bodyhollowed out like that nowand I taste the soundall over again.ii.the day after she diedthe trees lapped flaton the mirror of the lakewe all watched offerback what it was given.given luck or a spoon thenI purged every time tillmy knuckles pruned.there was always some-thing to offer evenmy knotty knees kneltto the pew, a prayerurging to be emptiedonce more after the lasthad been taken. I left flowersat a doorstep for a girlI knew only by the soundwe shared throughthe alley between uswhen we bent over holeswith our hands in our throats.I was a girl then. she wasa woman I knowbecause no girl has a bodylike that. I knew one dayI’d become a womanjust like my mother. mydaughter will inheritthis body against our wills.iii.the earth is heatingfrom the inside. at justthe right warmth, thenymphs emerge for thatlone golden fit, theirterminal thrill above groundbefore death and sing untilevery last female has died,then hush. when the song diesit dies. above ten thousandmirrors in the desert, birdscrossing concentrated beamsof sunlight incinerate mid-flight.they call them streamers, wispsof white smoke ribboninginside the blue sky. it wasthe pigeon with its whitethroat then, not its green bibsilvering in manic flashesas its head spun of its neckatop the water towerthat June that caughtmy eye, the croonerwatching passersby keptsomething that wanted out.ten thousand. imaginehow many countablyinfinite sets of a dreamthat would make looking in.

Note

iii: 12-15: from an article in The Los Angeles Times titled, “This Mojave Desert solar plant kills 6,000 birds a year. Here’s why that won’t change any time soon,” by Louis Sahagun. September 2016.

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Caitlin Roach earned an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2017, Poetry Northwest, Tin House, Colorado Review, The Journal, West Branch, Copper Nickel, Prelude, Handsome, and The Iowa Review. She is an assistant professor-in-residence at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where teaches creative writing and literature. More information can be found at caitlinroach.com.

West Branch

Winter 2018

Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

Stadler Center for Poetry
Bucknell University

Editor 
G. C. Waldrep

Managing Editor
Andrew Ciotola

West Branch is a thrice annual magazine of poetry, fiction, essays, and reviews, founded in 1977 and housed at the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University.

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