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in Abandon Journal

The mountains at dawn through the window.
I think, if I concentrate, I might read
the dark shape
in the fold between one peak and another. Maybe

the black spill of sorrow—
illegible in the world’s
brightness. Cleaning the Thanksgiving oven, I remember:
in the novel I am reading, a father gives his son

a biscuit smudged with ash, tells him nothing is cleaner
than ash.
                You are strange, my mother said, dwelling on the past.
Last night, I found a hidden stairway leading down

into a maze of rooms—familiar, as though I had forgotten
the many times I had already come there. Too many sofas,
no lamps, books spilling out of broken boxes.
                                                                             The bread

of atonement—that’s what the father said as he handed his son
the ashy biscuit.
I consider the dusty corners, the gritty
baseboards—they will never be clean all at once. No point

in trying. Best to address what presents itself—the napkin’s
cranberry stain, the gray amoeba
of dried coffee
on the kitchen floor. Paying attention to dreams, my mother

told me, is a waste of time. Rising from the oven’s gloom,
I straighten my back. Through the window
the last shadow
vanishes. The racks gleam sliding in, catching the sun.



Kathy Nelson, 2019 recipient of the James Dickey Prize (Five Points, A Journal of Literature and Art) and twice a Pushcart nominee, is a graduate of the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. In addition to her two chapbooks, Cattails and Whose Names Have Slipped Away, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Cortland Review, LEON Literary Journal, New Ohio Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, Twelve Mile Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review and elsewhere.

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