In the Ninth Month of Her Absence He Retraces His Steps

This land's already so familiar
I wander through its watersheds each night—
Donkey Creek, Barber Creek, Dead Horse Creek.

And the flats, these fields pocked with rigs
and frac tanks come whole to me then.
Starlight. Dull-eyed cattle lowing.

Even in dreams the tall grass rattles
with a dry wind. It's February. Some things
never change. Lover, where did we go wrong?

To know this earth in name and subtle variation—
Cradle Butte to Rocky Point, the Jenkins' reeking
salt pond nothing dare drink from—

and still no word for the lands
that lie between us? Blue sky and dust
have never been enough. I'm coming home,

the slow way, calling every blessed thing
by the name it makes for me. A thousand miles.
Three mountain passes. When I find you there

I'll make a gift of what I carry still:
starlight, a bone-deep winter's chill, the taste
of sage in June, forever on my lips.

Lucas Howell teaches 4th and 5th grade Language Arts at Jackson Elementary, in Jackson, Louisiana. His work has previously appeared in The Atlantic, Poetry, and Slate. He is the recent recipient of the 2010 James Dickey prize in poetry from Five Points.

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761