Spring and snowmelt spread through the slush-thick meadows,
tunneling through the upper river valleys.
There was no climbing out of it.
Instead of tending to ourselves in that loneliness, my sister
and I gathered our once-loved things into a pathetic heap
to be buried: keychains stolen from Philips 66, homemade
lanyards, plastic necklaces, mood rings.
We left our house at night which shed its light on wet ground.
Then, dropping a shovel over the fence, we hauled ourselves over
the chain-link separating the school yard from the back of our house,
crawled into a cluster of alders and dug.
It was a margarita mixer box we lowered down
like a seed, measuring our steps from the trunk of an aspen
so years later we could reclaim what we buried.
But in the brief April mist, in the warming night
and bell-swung breeze, my sister and I are still children,
hair ruffled and nailbeds splotched
with each clutch and sink.
Our two shadows sunken
and trowel-like between billed beams of school-light.
Even then I didn’t know the state flower
was the Columbine, laboring beneath the peaks,
translucent skins purpling us all.
From that day forward, we rattled inside
while the sounds of the outer world went on.
Somebody’s engine revved way off. Warm wind sprang
from curtains. Plastic bags caught in pockets of cottonwoods.
Bats nudged high up in the rafters of the garage.
We never found it again.
Over time, our strides grew long and the box, decayed;
dredged up and ransacked from the earth by kids like us,
thinking they released some incredible anchor to our suffering.
If I had known the days would splay and break
I would have cried mercy.
If we were losing ourselves—getting by
with the new truths of our small lives
which we and the world would meet each day, we didn’t know.
Our world asked for souls, and we paid with the weight of having lived.
Anna Leigh Knowles is a MFA candidate at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Her work has appeared in Tin House online, Pleiades, Indiana Review, The Missouri Review online, storySouth, Memorious, Sou’wester and Thrush Poetry Journal. She has received scholarships from the Bear River Writer’s Conference, New Harmony Writer’s Workshop, San Miguel de Allende Writers’ Conference and a Female Leadership Residency at Omega Institution. She is an assistant editor for the journal Crab Orchard Review.