the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Lynn McGee

The Dead Visit Before a Routine Procedure

I fanned out, light as a leaf,
elixir darkening my veins.
A nurse grounded me
with a blanket hot from the dryer,
and I waited in a cube
marked off by curtains;
time, an oven door cracked open
and my father, sister and grandmother
gathered in the wavy air
with their gentle, long faces
and pale eyes.
An attendant
with a merman’s wet, black curls
rolled me down a hallway,
under a fluorescent keyboard—
dark, light, dark, light, dark—
and I was stored somewhere safe.
Then a nurse was standing
by my bed, offering
apple juice and crackers.
and I was back
in the world of teeth
and trains, the world I hate
and love.



Beloved by little girls, the old man
passed his handgun—Don’t aim
at the house—and sent me
outside, eleven years old and proud
to police the whispering prairie,
grasshoppers big as clothespins
snapping across the chalky road,
tall grass stinging my legs—
then a target twitched its ears,
a jackrabbit froze
on bald ground, alerted
by the foot-scuffing, muttering
human racket, my beginner’s luck
ending his strenuous life,
hind leg a handle I swung back
to the house, kneeling
on the front porch to saw off
one rabbit foot
with a kitchen knife, wrap it
mummy-like in tin foil,
bury it deep in my suitcase.
Something had to be stopped,
and it would not be me.



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