On Decay

by Sara Moore Wagner

On the road up the side of the hill, through the chinks
in the trees, there’s evidence we cared for something,

a decorative awning over a sagging porch, black streaked windows
busted out and boarded, beyond there is a hand carved mantle.

Through the layers of cardboard patching the hole
the water has worn under the sink, there’s a foundation

laid by hands ready to call the land home, to cut away
the wilderness and sleep, poison ivy boiling the surface

of the skin like the rusty water in the pot on the wood stove.
Boiling water and skin means work, to be ready to work for a bed

with sheets hung out in the sun. Until the hunger comes,
and we all are on our knees in the church, opening our mouths

for bread. And like those crows who swoop down to steal
even the light, we’d eat the fire blooming on the candles,

the wick, the wax, we’d eat the fingers of the father, eat the
sandstone cliffs, the whisper of a bobcat in the woods.

We are hungry, want to adapt to a landscape claiming
back what we took from it, our bodies sinking into the soil, pulled

down like the siding we keep pushing up with anything we can find
that sticks. And like we do, the trees put their roots

in the creek to cool off, and that, too, looks like shelter.
When we walk the frogs and snakes disappear into it.

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