In the Back Seat of History

Mary Biddinger

We lived in Gettysburg like vagrant
prospectors, driven by the scent
of knees and a profound love of dimes

if by dimes you meant knees, and we
were always kneeling before
one altar or another, making sacrifice

as you called it. Your trunk was full
of coffee filters and insoles.
Somebody stole your brother’s bike

and that was all the reason needed.
We broke our melon the old
fashioned way, which is to say

not at all. You’d kneecap that bastard.
I knelt in front of you kneading
the last few pages of John Donne’s

Holy Sonnets like an exquisite loaf
of historically-derived rye.
When I got to the end I wasn’t sure

if breathing was polite, or necessary.
Later I stood in the alley
wearing red tatters of high school.

Our motel was packed with the cry
from a broken television,
the kind that lived between your ribs.