Three poems

by Leigh Anne Couch

How To Make a Wolf

The dog could smell love in our hands,
our eyes, our dozen words. The-things-
we-would-not-say would have to wait
until they no longer needed us.
Chickens roosted in the waiting.

When you kissed me in the bright kitchen.
When I slid down the wall with your voice
in the phone smashed to my chest.
Something stirred in the far dark, half alive
and making its way to our throats.

For its body we made a home:
parted curtains, deep-set eyes,
or parted lips about to speak,
about to think better of it.
The spaces were perfect around the-things-

we-would-not-say. The goats rarely
lifted their chins from thistle and thorn;
fear hunched in the wracked branches
and spiraling sighs—just the wind,
or the wind off the back of our creature circling in.

We will save each other from the world.
We will banish each other from the world.
In the loneliness of marriage will we grow shy
as two deer who do not recognize one another?
Will you miss me most when I’m in your arms?

For now we pass through the world in our home,
needing fewer and fewer words.
The goats blink their kaleidoscope eyes.
Our wolf is ready, teeth brilliant and long.
She softens her jaw to hold the master’s hand.

New Year’s Day

He was her late summer inconsistency
when woodbees were dying by handfuls
under her arsenic-treated deck.
She was his little addict.

Blood to lightning, fingers to feathers, that summer
their bodies dissolved to a clear hot spring.
Now she tries—with her back curved over and cold,
inches from his vertebrae, a bad road
between them—to quiet her mind
working like thumbs on her clay skin,
down from her skull, prying her apart,
opening a muscle, to lay down a spine,
her golden gate bridge, her lifeline
clotted with traffic, blaring lights, and tonight,
the drivers banging their horns, abusing
themselves, and crying with automatic rage—
If she knew where he’d gone to she could leave
him there, but words were moths
choked out of their mouths,
dwindling to dust in the sheets.

East through the mountains,
the road, a dead river,
the first sun comes up,

an overripened plum about to split
over the snow, over a river
of coal a mile below, over

two pups on their sides, white
and brown scraps, their backs
near to each other, not touching.

If they could, they’d be touching.
A splash of bird’s blood
on her white rental, driving very fast.

She wouldn’t stop for 500 miles,
for momentum shot through her
like novocaine to make it through

West Virginia, the left-alone state
people leave for good, but never
get out of their dreaming, a state

that plumbs its own depths, consumes
its own kind, gets uglier the more
people mess with its surfaces.

Perpetual Care at Plainview

Crossing highway one
at dawn, she shuts her eyes.
Think of her as Chronos.
Think of her as Carrion.

She sleeps standing up,
eats only seed,
gives fearsome little
smiles with her teeth

remembering our electric
skin, how we moved through
days cramming them in:
starving in a field of berries.

Honoring us, the newly
satisfied, the recently
out of time, she ties her
dandelion hair in chiffon

and walks to Plainview
where she touches stone
shoulders attentive at last.
You’re old longer than

you’re young and dead longer
than that. This is her calling.
She hears us calling. She’d
crawl from the cemetery home

to care for her old children
gone. She minds her steps
through our lengths and widths,
goes quietly to the business

of tucking us in, trimming
the yards with stubborn shears
breaking up clods of dirt
with her hands, and straightening

the waxed carnations on shaky
legs, her weather-beaten
chorus still poised to sing
you’ll miss everything.