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Absence

Read by Gary L. McDowell

[lineate]For you I drink a cup of wind, taste two fingers of salt.[/lineate]
[lineate]For you I do not bathe & grease builds back of my ears & tangles my lank hair, the vagabond whiskers on my nose.[/lineate]
[lineate]For you pine duff, blueberry, wild mint, a fawn’s slender hoof & fetlock.[/lineate]
[lineate]For you I chew weeds & rain-rotten sticks, drag my bare feet through dew-soaked grass.[/lineate]
[lineate]For you I refuse the advances of the mountain.[/lineate]
[lineate]For you I curse & stomp rocks, each thwomp & ring winging up shin & spine, rattling the very jaw socket.[/lineate]
[lineate]For you I wander open-mouthed under the cloud-shot sky & do not watch where it is I am going & with a wet pop turn my ankle & fall & scrape my hands & knees to the wet quick.[/lineate]
[lineate]For you stump & limp.[/lineate]
[lineate]For you abrasion, bruised bone, little driblets of blood.[/lineate]
[lineate]For you six days of sun & seven days of silence, warm water from a tin cup.[/lineate]
[lineate]For you I wander out again & step through a scruffy slope of meadow, the lewd unfurling of ferns, dewy & vaginal field of purple-flowered moss, & on down to the lake, lilies like scoops of butter corking on the wind-cut water.[/lineate]
[lineate]At moonset I wake & rise & piss a great arc out the front door & leap from the steps, & up the hill I run, the lean god of absence gnashing my devotion, & a fishbelly wind scours my skin & my eyes leak light & my sick heart judders in its pocket of gristle & rib, & each winging rib & each slick joint & juddering leg bone for you, for you this road & road dust & lip salt & the salt-hungry tongue, & this breath & this breath & breath.[/lineate]

Joe Wilkins is the author of a memoir, The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing up on the Big Dry, and two collections of poems, the forthcoming Notes from the Journey Westward, and Killing the Murnion Dogs. His poems, essays, and stories have appeared in The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, Ecotone, and The Sun, among other magazines and literary journals. He lives with his wife, son, and daughter in north Iowa, where he teaches writing at Waldorf College.