The Living at Dead Creek

Stacie Cassarino

We are either too early or too latewhen we set out across the cattail marsh-lands looking for the Snow geeseI have promised you. It is colderthan I prepared for, wind gustspushing our bodies from behind,and the sun does not warm usenough. There are days I categorizeas failed. When I lie downon the floor among dinosaursand dolls, close my eyes andpretend I'm dead, while my childrengo about their lives, thencome pouncing on the raftof my open heart. There I amat forty-five, and all I can hearis my daughter saying I'm making youalive. And here we are, on a morningwhen the clouds seem sketched againstthe blue to save us from the ideathat it could be perfect, still-flowering jewelweed along the banks,an inflorescence of woolgrass andbristly sedge, the creek wendingnorthward, all the way to the city,flowing into the lake that separates usfrom another country where I once dancedat the gay bar until morningbecause I could. Migration,I tell my daughter, is like going home.It is a mystery to me, what comesinto focus for her, or does not.The nature poem embellishes.It takes the memory of this pictureand turns it outward so that we arethe only disruption in a world of harddata: orange mountain litfrom within, godforsaken field and themachinery of human defeat. Once,this place was an ocean. Can't you feel it,I want to ask her, but when I scanthe scene, she is already drifting.How many other promiseswon't I be able to keep? Whenwill she want to know whereshe came from? Three geese take refuge.There were supposed to be thousandsof them. They were supposed to put ona show for us.

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Stacie Cassarino’s forthcoming collection, Each Luminous Thing, won the Lexi Rudnitsky Editor’s Choice Award and will be published by Persea Books in 2023. She is the author of Zero at the Bone (2009), which received a Lambda Literary Award and the Audre Lorde Award, and a critical work, Culinary Poetics and Edible Images in Twentieth-Century American Literature (2018). She is a recipient of the 92Y “Discovery”/The Nation prize and an Astraea Foundation Writers’ Fund Grant. She lives in Vermont with her three daughters, and teaches at Middlebury College.

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