Thursday Nov 30 PatriciaHeys L.S. McKee 's poetry has appeared in The Georgia ReviewCrazyhorse, Birmingham Poetry Review Blackbird, Ninth Letter, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, New South, B O D Y, Oversound, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from the University of Maryland and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. Originally from East Tennessee, she lives in Atlanta and teaches at the University of West Georgia. Visit her website can be found here.



The rain over the parking lot
released only flashes

                                   of sky— the way light
skids over broken film:
an actor’s face whole, then
dismantled, flashing once

and gone: isolated from
           motions that lead or follow.

Around her, we gathered,
            fumbling to hold back
sadness, though we only
felt the periphery

of her grief while
she stared at the building
as if it were a thing she didn’t know.

Inside, we cranked open blinds

to alleviate the darkness,
as she circled the room unsure

of where to begin and we
busied ourselves with other things:
scraping clean days-old dishes, emptying
            the fridge and untended aquarium.

When she paused in that doorway,
I’d be lying if I said

I didn’t turn away: her fingers tracing
the angles of the frame,

the brass lock and highest hinge—
the last place she’d held him,
squinting against all the light
we’d let in.

Parking Lot Pastoral

At three o’clock, pickups
spread their rusted wings toward
afternoon abandonments.

The light slips back. Windshields
flare. A girl bounces along
a running board, lifting

toward the faded upholstery  
of a passenger seat.
Everything rumbles with

possibility. They are
hours from evening. Fall
has begun. A little blood

in the leaves. Trees flash
against a small blue sky.
Earlier and earlier,

the mountains darken.
Their shadows bend in the
valley. The river rushes

anywhere. Lean-in-or-
push-away is the condition
of everything: a thing

she is learning while
one-by-one, cars rev to
exit metal gates

that lead to a highway
looping hills that rise and
fall like breath. The visor

mirror in her hand records
the highway’s rewinding.
and she begins to know

time as departures, as
mountains shrinking to plains,
begins to feel the pleasure

of what disappears when
the sky bullies the earth.

Alva and the Soldier’s Letter

From the mountain ridge, shotgun
fire deep in the woods. Beasts
scatter. And should. Backwards,

leaves float as if climbing toward their old
limbs, jumping trains of wind they can’t catch.
Or at least. This is how it seems today.

Today a letter. Patrick says: don’t tell Dad
but I’m afraid I’ll never have the chance to write
the word better. Insects goose bump everything

when the wind stills, and I can dismantle and reassemble
in sixty seconds. Tell Dad there’s nothing to fear. That
though I’d never wish it, I wish you were here.

Alva’s Prayer

Thy will is an unadorned thing, a smooth stone
in the faltering water. Thy will the creatures beneath
a river’s silt. A cloud half-reflected. A crawdad’s claw,
a tiny wishbone of thy will—which end will I take
when we pull apart? When I close my eyes I hear
it snap: a rough tear at first then the resounding
break. Thy will is an earth-shackled bird, a coop
of litigious hens; thy will is law, a bowtie on the
prison’s fence, my blood looped in knots when a boy
walks by, when I can taste his sweat and think of thy
tears in the garden, when you began to doubt the thing
you’d told yourself all those years: thy will an inheritance,
a curse, the thing a father says so you’ll never leave him
to the lonely rooms of his house, to the rock he made
impossible for either of you to lift.

McKee photo credit: Patricia Heys