by Cassie Sparkman

Sunday afternoons I close my eyes and dream dry-mouthed of empty, muddy fields, or the barn stacked shoulder high with feed corn and sun-bleached straw. When I wake I write you letters, blunt half-truths I want to breathe in your ears like hope. The day you disappeared I walked the fenceline fourteen times. Deer crashed away from my voice scraping raw and red with each circle I strode. The path was muddy and I fell over and over. Halloween leaves plastered my knees when darkness forced my houseward. I floated them in cold water, left them next to candles burning at the windows, trying to call you home. I hate Fall: the frost gilding bent grass, the wind worrying and scattering leaves, the echo of gunshots across the bright hills. I walked the aching fields today, restless after church, my eyes dreamless and open. A doe staggered to the south field’s edge, beyond the fence where forest starts to struggle upwards. Sighing, she fell to her knees. I watched red stain her coat and wet the leaves that caught her. Two men in orange turned their backs to me and lifted her away, their laughter like spider legs against my cold cheeks. I will not write you any more letters. You never answer, and I have no place left to bury them.

Cassie Sparkman is a native of Kentucky and a current resident of southeastern Ohio. She is a graduate of the University of Washington, and her poems have appeared in Clackamas Literary Review, Seattle Review, and Poetry Northwest.