by Nathan Leslie

In thrashing nettles the bruise-colored
berries emerge in patches on the gravel path
that runs behind my mother’s house.

We walk through weeks early,
jolting rabbits from the weeds,
itching pastures overgrown for years.

The family left five rusted hills
in the boxwood yard, and barns
pocked with rot and nesting birds.

The silo is fuzzed with ivy
and creepers, raspberries flanking,
sentries to empty threats.

As far back as I go, we had tomatoes
and corn, a plot run through
with gravel as this, vultures hovering.

My father put a wheel in my hand
there, the pathway safe, straight,
direct, without curves or troughs.

Then raspberries lined the road as handouts,
offering themselves directly, gifts
for living, for breathing, solace.

Today, as we prod the clacking
doors with branches and squint
in the familiar sun, the fruited

thistles seem sharper, discreet,
less governed, and clouds
darker, filled with veiled turmoil.

Nathan Leslie’s six books of fiction include Madre, Reverse Negative, and Drivers. Nathan’s short stories, essays, and poems have appeared in over 100 literary magazines including Boulevard, Shenandoah, North American Review, and Cimarron Review. He is fiction editor for The Pedestal Magazine and series editor for The Best of the Web 2008 anthology, which will be published by Dzanc Books. His website is www.nathanleslie.com.