In country where only motorcycles and pick-ups drive, Missouri derechos lay down whole boughs of cottonwood. Here, I wonder how your hand touched my chest and managed to be so far away—inreality of that moment like the dead stop of a dragonfly. You were gone before you even turned away. Now my hands are stuffing bacon and apple into pig hearts, hoping there is some magic to the Ozarks, still some faith in mountain cooking and cast iron. I brought moonshine from Appalachia, excited to share parts of my home I had begun to deny myself. I never felt deserving of the South—that place so full of refuge, hollers that swallow you up, cradle you in blankets of tulip poplar with tea of sassafras to calm swollen minds. Yes, life can be as easy as pawpaw cookies, fistfuls mashed to our mouths before the oven.
I plot Missouri hoodoo, play wishful witchcraft with my wanting—boil tongues, fill chambers of hearts with sausage and sage, offal thuds into black iron, Dutch oven like a cauldron and thick as the Big Muddy herself. A cold smell of smoke curls through the window and I think about how we always looked forward to winters together. Caraway roasts in butter the color of a harvest moon as I picture the snow falling outside your window, grey wisps of steam slip in and out the screen; our own breath escapes us. Beef and garlic suffuses the house as stew spits—closing in on what I dream about, the dim rooms lit only by the grey of suburban Missouri winter. What’s missing is warmth best created with four hands—two kneading pumpkin dough, two straining cardamom from white spiced coffee, two sets of lips blowing out to cool each uneasy sip.
For an Imagined Alice
We moved like quaking aspen—not quietly, but without effort. Our bodies pressed flush against the bend in air made by intermittent picks of banjo strings, dancing stiff, more fluid with each pass of whisky. Alice danced barefoot, her feet a rainbow earth, a russet slush of colors kin to green, brown and orange but always in Gaussian blur. Soon came the ghost of Ella Fitzgerald singing At Last while Alice and I came close as a two-person juke joint, steps drunk as black spruce. Our short story selves stuck to the ribs of string instruments—each vibration shaking us out.
Christopher Petruccelli is a graduate student at the University of Missouri and an associate poetry editor at Stirring: A Literary Collection. His poetry has appeared in Connotation Press, Gingerbread House Magazine, Rappahannock Review and elsewhere. His chapbook, Action at a Distance, is available from UIndy’s Etchings Press.