River of Want

Sarah McCartt-Jackson

At Danny’s party, I was tired
of playing my part. I wanted
to learn and do more than witness.
I wanted to go with the boys
when they looked at the blood
on the highway in the moonlight
after the wreck. I wanted to wreck
your truck into a ditch with you
in it. I wanted to dance while everyone
was watching and not be told what
I looked like. I wanted to taste pig
flesh right off the fingers of a man
who could two-step and shoot
pool and buy a lady a drink without
a question. I wanted to climb the ridge
to see the full moon light my own toes
even if it meant I went up there
with someone else. I wanted
your rough hands to stroke me
on my back while I slept without
having to rouse up for you. I wanted to
sleep in your arms until the sun
burned us out of bed, until we melted
ice on each other and laughed our way
back. But when you couldn’t stay
in bed and when you saw my thighs
were the softest parts any of those men had
ever seen, I saw the way your eyes turned
dark as a split grape. Felt your knuckles
tighten on my throat. I knew not to wait
for the rattle. I curled up in the mustard
thistle, kept to grapeleaf shadow and crush.
Drank from the reservoir full of sulfur, ate
your uncle’s peaches. I drowned myself
one shot at a time, until one day at last
you said, I think you’ve had enough

Sarah McCartt-Jackson Kentucky poet, educator, and folklorist Sarah McCartt-Jackson has been published by Indiana Review, Journal of American Folklore, The Maine Review, and others. Her poetry books include: Stonelight, Calf Canyon, Vein of Stone, and Children Born on the Wrong Side of the River. She has served as artist-in-residence for Great Smoky Mountains, Catoctin Mountain, Homestead, and Acadia National Parks.

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