Elegy with Sympathy

For the bulldozed house. For the ripped-out yard. For the mourning doves that won’t come back to the swamp, not this time. For the trees planted in the yard when the children are born, for how tall they grow—the trees—even after you’ve died so young. Can any loved field be a churchyard is the start of a letter I’m writing. Postmark no date. I can’t bring myself to open the mail. It’s hard for us to understand God’s plan is the message, but I learned early that the flood was a sentence. An earned blight. There isn’t going to be a eulogy for this. No hymn songs. No innocent dirt. For all the changeling girls who couldn’t pull the splinters out, whose wings did not form. Is it a system—if the water wants to drown us—is it? If I say it’s the water’s fault? Behind me in the dirt there are only wet prints leading back to your grave. I don’t want to take back all my trying. In the beginning there was a word for this. I carry it now like a bit in my mouth.

From Brute by Emily Skaja. Copyright © 2019 by Emily Skaja. Used by permission of Graywolf Press.