As kids we used to sing from the top of Dump Hill.
Sisters by half-blood and seasoned with the Appalachia,
our voices carried over the breadth of three states, a call
to awaken the heart of West Virginia and more.
The spring I turned five, we trained a bird to skip
over a homemade path of pine needles and stone.
The earth trembled when it died, a starvation
we were too young to comprehend, a sacrifice
to richen the soil we walked upon together.
During dusks of rain, we breathed on windows and
traced storm clouds on the glass. Lightning bug glow
flickered in the backyard, the bodies of sycamores and poplars
trembling in the gust. A wisp came in the house once,
and we held hands and danced in the evening gust.
Our last summer together should not have been.
You lost your footing at the peak, little girl body
tumbling down a wall of rocks and ash. The clouds
rumbled when you stopped, a single drop of rain on my cheek
as I found your windbreaker in the ditch.
That was the first time I sang alone, the day
the earth took you away from me.
I am the bouquet of baby’s breath at the grave.
To light the sound of your voice on fire, a glimmer
that satisfies the hunger in the pit of your belly, I am
sorry for telling you that I didn’t weep that day.
He was a kid when he fell out the mouth of an elm,
a boy stricken with that terrifying blue. I watched
the earth tremble when it caught him. A sea of dead
leaves bleed and bend, oranges and browns that blended
with the white cotton of his Walmart t-shirt.
You were still when it happened.
You said you wanted to be the tree that threw him.
I wash the moment until it is clean. I trace the shape
of a moon crescent in the blanket of grass above him,
the wick of his memory flickers and quivers as
I draw more than just seasons and the blues of his eyes.
You are empty a year later, bones that scream
into vacuumed spaces and discarded birthdays.
We were only kids. We had no idea.
AMBER D. TRAN graduated from West Virginia University in 2012, where she specialized in lyrical non-fiction and contemporary poetry. She currently lives in Alabama with her husband and miniature dachshund. Her first novel, Moon River, was released in September.
She is the editor-in-chief for the literary journal Cold Creek Review. Her work has been featured in Calliope, Sonic Boom Journal, Spy Literary Journal, Cheat River Review, and more.