I remember what was there 
before the city grew 
into its own new kind 
of wilderness: hills 
fenced in, mossy trails 
blueprinted, trees 
felled into footnotes
like everything else 
in what we 
as schoolchildren 
were told was history. 
We practiced chainsaw loops 
and strokes on paper, learned
how subtraction shadows 
sums; intoned prayers 
while balancing on scabbed 
knees. When it rained,
the water rose up and up
around our houses' hems
as if a sea were waiting
beneath the apron-sized gardens
planted by our mothers. 
If we left, still we'd return 
as soon as the sun restored
a flimsy crust to soaked
surfaces. Even the horses
knew not to stamp
their feet. We learned 
to tell one 
sound of water from another:
kettle-boil, hand pump 
installment, frost-
crackle upon the cabbage heads.
And that old, unslaked thirst
rising out of the ground
year after year,
trying to take
it all back. 


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