AFTER MY SISTER’S
by Lynne Knight
Almost dusk. My sister cuts
some Lebanon squill
scattered across the yard
like little stars for the small blue vase
on the kitchen windowsill.
It hurts, she says, of the missing
breast. But every day
a little less. We look up
as some flickers sweep past,
the orange under their wings
flashing like little suns.
The bear that slumps across the meadow
at night to raid the bird feeders
never stops to gaze up at the stars
or wonder why he stands on the high bank
by the brook come summer, stealing blackberries
warmed by sun. He doesn’t trouble
about war or why he does nothing to stop
the slow death of democracy.
He doesn’t wonder how it would feel
to wake up as otter or deer, eagle or thrush.
He doesn’t know envy. Greed is just paws
scooping or grabbing. He knows nothing
of cancer. He stands at the feeder
on ragged hind legs to rattle the seed
free. He slurps at suet before slouching
back across the meadow, black shadow
behind his moon-cast black shadow.
A chickadee lands on my jacket sleeve,
expecting to be fed. I’ve forgotten
to bring seed, so I wait for it to flit off
in a huff of whatever birds experience
as mild disappointment. Someone took
the lime green plastic watering can
from the edge of the mountain brook,
so the woods look pristine, no sign
of human intervention. Easy to pretend
I’m young again, my daughter sleeping
in the room beside her cousins’ room,
their voices about to break into day,
another kind of birdsong.
Not what you might think: not tea & cakes & ices.
Just the neighbors, come to clean the yard,
taking rakes & clippers to dead leaves & bracken,
piling debris on tarps to drag out to the brush heap.
My sister falls asleep reading on the daybed.
Three hours later, the yard’s raked clear.
A shower comes, an almost double rainbow.
We watch it fade, admiring the neatness
of the flower beds, the rain-rinsed brightness
of the lawn. Just then the woodchuck slithers up
from his burrow, starts chewing iris blades.
My sister raps on the window. He looks up,
stares, chews more. She raps again, harder,
& as he scoots off, we call out, laughing,
Your days are numbered, pal! Ours, too.
But first, this green, this flowering.
Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 14, Number 1
Copyright © 2019
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material
published in the Apple
Valley Review are retained
by the individual authors
THE UNFINISHED NOVEL
by Lynne Knight
He couldn’t stand without swaying. He tried
but couldn’t. You’re a mess. The mother.
The daughters sat side by side,
pretending they lived wherever
the books they’d been reading said.
He sat down beside them on the sofa. Reek
of whiskey, smoke. If they kept quiet,
he’d start to snore . . . He snored.
Snow fell on the village where they lived
in a house with a dirt floor, without walls or plumbing,
an oil stove the only source of heat.
Depending on how much he’d drunk, the father
was morose, lachrymose, heady with grandiose
schemes for finishing the house,
dead to the world. The daughters looked up from
their books to watch him on the sofa then,
studying the strange chemistry: Daddy.
They were still too young to simplify the formula
to its manageable parts: they loved him,
they hated him: both at once.
Snow fell on the village. Even in summer,
the mother would look at the oil stove, empty,
cold, and feel the snow falling. When would it end?
What would her daughters think of her staying
once they were grown and gone?
by Lynne Knight
My father stood on the street
below the artist’s loft where
my lover and I lived that summer,
stood smoking one cigarette after another,
grinding them out with his shoe,
all the rage in his body focused there
in the instant before he looked up again
at the windows, wondering which floor
I was on, wondering if I could see him,
a fifty-four-year-old man wanting
to rescue me, save me, spare me—whatever
he thought, however he put it before
he ground out the last cigarette
and walked back to his car to drive north
for an hour and tell my mother
the address I’d given them was real
enough, but no sign of me or the lover.
Of course I was furious he’d come after me.
Of course I said terrible things about him:
he must have been drunk, he was so
possessive it was pathological,
on and on. What did I know at twenty
but everything I would learn
I knew almost nothing of?
Not the anguish that would come over me
whenever I see him standing there.
Not the longing to have opened the window,
called down to him.
Not these tears he would scorn
if he could see me now,
hating weakness as he did, knowing it
in his bones and hating it, hating his daughter
even as he loved her, for making him yield
to love’s weakness, its longing
for nothing to change.
Lynne Knight is the author of six full-length poetry
collections, three of them prize winners, and of six
chapbooks, three of them also prize winners. Her work
has appeared in many journals including Kenyon Review,
Poetry, and Southern Review. Knight’s other awards and
honors include publication in Best American Poetry, the
2006 Prix de l’Alliance Française, a Lucille Medwick
Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, the
2009 Rattle Poetry Prize, and a grant from the National
Endowment for the Arts. I Know (Je sais), her translation
with the author Ito Naga of his poetry collection Je sais,
was published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2013. Knight
moved to Canada in 2018.
◄ Previous page Apple Valley Review, Spring 2019 Next page ►