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Annette Sisson

After Nineteen Months of Separation

for my son


Sandhills stroll the marsh,

rise into steep sky. Squawks,

knife on rock, swell, spar—

shreds of cirrus, bruised.

A male sage grouse

inflates, deflates, thrusts

and gyrates, darts

and whirls a feckless dance.

First hummingbird whizzes

to willow tip, purple trumpet bloom

nectar-brimmed—surges, bolts,

meadow blank in its wake.


Ache of the animal body

wrenched from itself—

shiver as wind,

numb as crushing day,

flame raw as blood.


Morning, breeze, lake,

fawn rises, flails,

box turtle splits grass,

promenade of turkey,

barred owl, separate in shade.

Sun sifts through ash,

leaves ripple, fingering

shadow. Beyond,

slabs of blue hollow

total the whole,

stroking light, earth,

you, into presence, ever


Nothing was automatic. Not

my mother’s grip slipping

on my skin, nor her 1973

Dodge Dart—stubborn

three-speed, stiff wheels,

no power steering.

The color of a clingstone peach.

For graduation she stitched a dorm

quilt, helped me choose

an electric typewriter—even

showed me how to drive

the Dart: shift the gears,

guide the clutch, accelerate,

swell into forward glide.

But that summer she screeched like worn

brakes, ordered me to get

a job, pay my own way.

I raged at her back, swiped

keys from her zippered purse.

After Labor Day, we stood on hot

pavement, limestone dormitory

looming, hours of unloading

boxes, tangledhangers,

bedmaking—the room’s cement

blocks sweating. We walked

to the end of the path, afternoon

heat rolling into thunder.

I couldn’t shake the rain

or lift my feet to go

inside. My mother scudded

through puddles, clicked the Dart’s

key, placed one hand

on the wheel, the other on the rearview

mirror, adjusting. Then

she switched on the wipers, pressed

the gas, released the clutch.


Annette Sisson’s poems can be found in Birmingham Poetry Review, Rust and Moth, The Citron Review, The Lascaux Review, Typishly, One, and many other journals. Her book, Small Fish in High Branches, was published by Glass Lyre Press in May 2022—her chapbook, A Casting Off, by Finishing Line in 2019. She was a Mark Strand Scholar for the 2021 Sewanee Writers’ Conference and 2020 BOAAT Writing Fellow. Among other contest placements, she won The Porch Writers’ Collective’s 2019 poetry prize—and was shortlisted for the 2021 Fish Poetry Prize and longlisted for the 2021 Frontier New Voices contest.


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