Rebecca Brock’s work appears in The Threepenny Review, Literary Mama, Rust + Moth, Whale Road Review and elsewhere. She won The Comstock Review’s 2022 Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Poetry Contest, judged by Ellen Bass, and the 2022 Kelsay Women’s Poetry Contest. Her first chapbook, Each Bearing Out, is now available, and her full-length collection, The Way Land Breaks, is forthcoming from Sheila-Na-Gig Editions. She is a reader for SWWIM and lives in Virginia, with her family. You can find more of her work at www.rebeccabrock.org
Some things between us become habits
even after the feeling
that began them lifts
or squanders itself
in daylight, that rinse
of time, sun after moon—
there is as much we can’t ever say
and I think you are tired
of me trying to say it.
But the choice
for me isn’t one—
the way the crow, yesterday, focused
on her task of eating,
stopped to call back
to her brethren in the far trees—
swelling her throat,
skyward, and slightly east,
trying all the while still to nourish herself
on something found
in the grass, something
at her feet—
our son says, can you just not?
and I don’t know that I can
or can’t. There is so much
we can’t know
about the creatures we live beside,
no matter how we feed
each other, or what we call
from one level of our tall and narrow house
to the next—you grumbling
about needing to be on the same level,
saying you refuse to holler
from the basement to the kitchen
or the kitchen to the bedrooms
and me, hollering anyway—
caught as I am
between all there is to do,
all the ways I love,
all the ways I could disappear—
how hard I’m trying not to.
As a child, my childish heart loved Robin Hood—
the cartoon version where he and Maid Marian
are foxes and when he runs the jailbreak
I loved most the little baby bunny
saying mommy, mommy wait for me
with her little bunny lisp in her little pink nightgown
trailing her little stuffed bunny—her mother
screamed my baby and Robin Hood turned back to look—
I loved how his face faltered—and determined,
in the same moment, to go back—the mother reaching
her arms out from the careening wagon—
I didn’t even know then what it meant,
the bones and muscles involved,
the mother’s heart behind it.
The world—my world—hadn’t told me yet,
that there’s always someone left behind,
or that to carry so much
for someone else was deemed a cost
too high to exact.
I know now that most of us would have kept going,
shook our heads and told the mother
there was nothing we could have done,
or, there was a war on, and we couldn’t risk
a bigger one—or, we were frightened, we didn’t mean
to shoot—but maybe I already knew
there was always grief to live beside and name.
Terrible destruction, surely, and terrible death—
the mourning can take you up on its back
and carry you—so that you wake not knowing
the how of the why or even, for a moment, the where.
If you are lucky, you begin again, slow
and small, a pile of stones
begin at one point to look like a wall
or maybe weapon enough to throw.
We were never made to be invincible.
Flesh collapses so surely to causality and dust.
When morning comes—that sunlight—what will be asked
of us? How will we bear it? Mothers,
fathers, sisters, brothers—all of us—