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My Own History of Plagues

Miriam Bird Greenberg

The year of drought was followed by the year of locusts,
the year of grass fires, the year when daffodils
threaded with cyanide seeds got all the goats.
Then it was the seventeen-year cicadas.
Next the two moons in the sky
looking askance with their white eyes
like a rabbit shucked of its skin in one fluid motion.
The year of my flea-bait boyfriend
with his flock of coonhounds. The year my father
took a long swig from a can of Sterno
and didn't make it back up the basement steps.
The year Jennie got lockjaw turned stiff
and gray as an old board.
Cats got the kitchen mice, but a possum
got the cats and some chickens too,
and Bill shot the possum but didn't count
on the kick, broke his collarbone like a hacksaw gone toothless.
At the end of twelve days ants had got the possum,
and maggots and fifteen kinds of fly,
and we all sat on the porch where the boards hadn't rotted through
drinking gin out of old jam jars as the sun sank
behind grain elevators. Then grandma excused herself,
and Lolly who'd been the hired hand for about a hundred years
left after her, and when I got up for the kitchen
I saw from the corner of my eye
him brushing hair out of her face,
and she had her hand on his waist,
and I knew both would be gone by next year
and the well caved in besides.

Miriam Bird Greenberg

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