Houston County, Alabama

I sketched the gallows fast,
dashed blanks for the crime
beside the penciled scaffold,
the word itself haphazard
rationale for that first line down
I did not once think of as rope.
When I circled the second
failure into a head,
it was just the startpoint
for the torso, not a skull
like mine, the slanting arms
each another guesswork
indictment, stick pictures
nothing like my vivid self,
not icons of anything
but the boredom that brimmed
our dipper-shaped county.
We didn’t know the seven
stars in the trees of our home
constellation were hung men.



If God fists the bolt, does it matter
if I reach the farmhouse?
Or, if God’s
body forms the cellar, then whose arms
make that whipcrack?
I thread the row
of bales toward the cattle-gap that gates the yard,
behind me a pink stillness and thickening
wisp of tornado.
I have been preparing my whole life
to run like this.


Caroline Pittman was born in Mississippi, grew up in Alabama, and is currently raising four children in Atlanta. Her work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Witness, Crab Orchard Review, and elsewhere.