Alex Patriquin

Marginalia & found poetry. Short fiction and other projects. Musings  on startups. Photos from NYC and travels.

Salt Hill

I was born in a Tennessee sanatorium hours after my mother’s father died & I know 
how the womb becomes a salt-sea grave.

I was born in the last seconds of small crops & small change rained down on the
collection plate’s felt palate & I know

the soul’s barn debt to past generations, too.

Outside, ditchfuls of chicory flashed in the after-rain sun as melancholia’s purple 
scent rose & its steepled fog distilled in Tennessee hills.

& I know I’m not supposed to be here on account of all those crazy aunts & I know 
great-grandma was five

when her Cherokee mother died & her daddy dumped her on the red clay curb 
of an Arkansas reservation then drove away in a wagon –

how she just strode the fields of milkweed back to Tennessee & married her cousin.

When I was five I drowned a fly in a piepan of water then spooned it out & heaped 
a hill of salt on its still body until I could hear a buzz again (as if within a belly)

& I know the rush of the resurrected.

I was born in the last decade of small town girls wearing white gloves to funerals.

As an infant my boy quit suckling long enough to wave to my mother’s ghost –
who used to drift in the doorway of the hours.

& at three he told me that at my age he had red hair & broke his neck falling off 
a runaway horse – I know

                                        the rocking chair’s set too close to the edge of the porch.


from Murder Ballad by Jane Springer