Without Fail
by Sarah Winter

The days, burned clean by heat, gather
like cattle underneath the trees,
look around in calm and great fatigue.
We listen to the crickets’ hymn,
precious to us: sweet and bloodless.

Without fail, I try to say
the things I always try to say
every autumn: the first
call of the final jay,
indigo behind the static trees:
no new song.

Summer comes
again again again,
like a swarm of flies
to a wound.

I am too red and thin
to greet its current incarnation.
I find my strength
is not renewed
like the eagle, doesn’t swell
like buds upon the ash.

We came back to have our babies
in the place where we were children,

so that those dry beloved
banks would fill again.
We did not calculate how weary
we would be to hear the water,
to listen to the locust call from tree to tree
every seven years.

My daughter disappears behind the fence.
My hand no longer aches to write
across her skin the place
where we were children,
to have her know
the pines I climbed are gone.

The creek still passes in its place
though slate and shale have shifted and the water
now is not the water
I did not drink
for fear of parasites.

I have heard that every seven years
each cell within your body is replaced.
The body you have now is not the same
body that was born,
that learned to speak
that first made love
in Africa that time when blue
storms stood above the plain.

But if this is true
then how do I still carry
this scar?
How is it that my skin
when it renewed itself
renewed the wound?


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 17, Issue 4.

sarah-winterSarah Winter received an MLitt in Creative Writing from St. Andrews University where she worked under poets Don Paterson and Kathleen Jamie. Sarah lives in Kansas City with her husband and two small children.

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