New Year’s Day

by Leigh Anne Couch

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.

Leigh Anne Couch lives in Tennessee and is the managing editor of the Sewanee Review. Her poems have appeared in Shenandoah, 32 Poems, Alaska Quarterly Review, Blackbird, Carolina Quarterly, Verse Daily, The Bark, and other journals. Her manuscript “Houses Fly Away” won the Zone 3 Press First Book Award and will be published in 2007.