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–after Ross Gay

First, it’s the backyard
swing and the gentle
sway and me with my sappy
YA novel about teenage
cancer patients and
you never knew
who would live
and who would die and I
just let myself be drawn
into the characters like that
and it’s the emerald
grass and dad
trying every day to make it
grow grass seeds stark
white or alien
blue on rich Iowa soil under
the trees and that sweet smell
of the summer breeze but that
maybe is another poem
because I’m trying to get to a
Tuesday morning in college
leaving the music building
and suddenly I’m whapped
in the face with the stench
of the hog confinements on
slaughter day and it’s miles away
but the smell of blood is everywhere
while the organ plays and I walk
across the open grass then years
later I sit on the couch in the dim
light and watch my daughter watch
as my mom changes the
bandages on dad’s wounds and the smell
– dear God – and you just know a body
isn’t supposed to smell like that
and this is the beginning
of the end and dad stares at the
TV screen where Bobby Flay chops
slabs of meat though the truth
is I’m not watching
I’m reading as I rock
on the swing and my dad drags
the garden hose around the yard

This poem was written in imitation of and appreciation for Ross Gay and his poem “Armpit,” in Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015).

Photo by Gabriel on Unsplash

Katlyn DeVries

Katlyn DeVries lives in Holland, MI with her husband and two children. She is ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the RCA and works as a writing tutor and in the Girod Chair at Western Theological Seminary.