They keep asking if I
Miss the mountain
And I don’t.

I miss the apothecary’s workshop, and
The way I used to measure out the herbs
On little scales
While mixing prescriptions.
I remember how to poison you, still. Or break your fever, I can
Fix your insomnia or
Flush your liver
Or take down the swelling, or
Give you nightmares,
Or help you breathe
But
The rest of it all seems like a dream.
Like I woke up in the middle of a city in winter
A thousand miles north
And maybe I do miss something, or rather
I am missing something, or rather
I am missing.

Maybe I slept for five years
And was here the whole time, wrapped around an old pillow
In a quiet room
And the rhododendrons never kissed my forehead.

Maybe no one knows where I am, still.

I am afraid.
What if I cannot ever know what happened there,
What if there was no fire.
What if I did not swim naked in the South Toe,
What if I imagined the dead snake on the front porch,
Its freshly-severed head, and my sweaty palms
Clutching the shovel’s old handle,
And that shovel was older than me, I said.

What if I’m wrong.
What if I can’t remember getting here.
What if I wake up somewhere else, again,
With no certain knowledge
Of arrivals
Of maps
Of how to kill a copperhead
Before it kills me, first.

 


 

Nina Szarka