August’s Morning Breath

by Katee Irene Fletcher



Family is the Sunday morning welcome 
of lake stillness. Our communion the calm
of fawns in the grass outside the back door
with the trees and the dirt and 
the sound of water smoothing stones.

We hope for a weekend with sun
but don’t mind dancing in green rain–
mossy rocks and black flies an audience 
to our happy feet. The forest becomes a bed. 
Barefoot toes turning brown as I collect 
sticks for swords or s'mores with cousins 
while the fire pinks my freckled cheeks 
and Keith plays guitar. David ties 
our sweatshirt sleeves in knots 
to make us giggle at a world without touch.
We play volleyball until the lone garage light
blurs our vision– silence echoing
our thwacks, taunts, chortles and the howling 
of coy dogs.

We embrace here. 

Night like water– it bathes us in stars that spell 
out constellations like alphabet soup
and cues family secrets over 
the left, right, center click of dice on dollar bills 
and a wooden table carved by Uncle Dave.

Here I grow in conversation gaps. Between breaths
we bloom like wildflowers and drip 
like the sap of pine trees.

Eight a.m. knotted hair and swollen eyes
are loved by old uncles that are eager to teach 
the hankering for pork roll and peanut butter.
Belly full of grease, my cousins teach bruised knees 
as blush– crawling on river rocks like spiders
until purple and pleased.

Saturday morning’s cold fog filled with Aunt Donna sweetening
her coffee while I eat Cheetos and think of river rafting 
and picnic table spaghetti. My crisp braid wrapped in sweat and 
Amanda’s hair tie lies on my back that’s been warmed
by sunburn and beach towels tattered with time. 

Here, we are grateful. 

No cell service creates quiet 
for stories about my grandmother’s laugh;
room to express I love you by lip singing 
Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”.

Each morning I wake to watch my mother eat 
a cinnamon donut and breathe
her seven am cigarette before bathing 
at the rocks where aunts teach that river water smooths 
your hair slick and dark like the belly of a fish.


back to University & College Poetry Prizes