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"its strange and swollen borders," a poem by Bethany Schultz Hurst

 

in better days     when they

first came     i rattled gently

the windows      hid teacups and

made shapes like rabbits rise

from sheets      the missus and

 

mister always laughed and set

for me a place at

the table even tho i

could not eat      we made

believe       still i did not

 

feel at home so i

rode in their wagon when

they asked me       we left

for the new frontier and      

i looked back at the

 

carrots still growing in the

garden plot      the buckboard groaned

of its own accord but

missus thought i made the

sound    frowned as if to

 

say now is not the

proper time      she looked a

bit afraid      i could not

tell if we made a

new dotted line across the

 

map or only erased some

older trail      i would prove

i was well-behaved     no

more games       for weeks i

embroidered pinpricks in white linen

 

for my needle could hold

no thread        missus took no

note       the saltpork barrels were

nearly empty    i swore i

hid not a single morsel      

 

        i saw girls disappear into

the sagebrush      we had no

time for ceremony      any shallow

buried body was spit back

out as if the ground

 

were full      the bullet pouch

grew lean     anyhow no game

remained       wheel ruts vanished into

riverbanks         missus accused me of

stealing her favorite silver thimble

 

but i saw her drop

it when we forded that

high river      it was no

time for fancywork      all left

unsecured was swallowed      still the

 

skinny oxen labored with their

load        that night i slipped

out from the circled wagons

while they decided how else

to lose some burden        the

 

girls in the sagebrush whispered

for me to come to

them         they combed my wispy

hair       fastened the ends with  

bows      told me none of

 

us ever got some place

marked for us      we all

could disappear       i did not

know to believe them         i

looked back toward the wagons   

    

        firelight cast dark figures upon

the bonnets      some rough beast

was taking shape        perhaps a

woman or a musket or

perhaps this very country with

 

its strange and swollen borders  

 

 

 

 

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Bethany Schultz Hurst's poems have appeared in journals such as River Styx, The Cimarron Review, The Gettysburg Review, Rattle, and Smartish Pace. She lives in Pocatello, Idaho, where she teaches at Idaho State University. 

All Responses:

Respond to a Prompt:

Submit your response to our current prompt(s). See our Submissions Guidelines page for details.

Bethany Schultz Hurst's poems have appeared in journals such as River Styx, The Cimarron Review, The Gettysburg Review, Rattle, and Smartish Pace. She lives in Pocatello, Idaho, where she teaches at Idaho State University.