Pastoral

 
Marjorie Baker and I walked after rain
        to the lake we didn’t know was manmade, plunging white feet
     into rimless water to hear our birdboned voices cry out from cold
                          and nothing in answer.
 
                                                              Both of us girls, technically.                                                                       Age eleven, my hips wiry and boyish. Her breasts
                                                                    already full, her arms sloped and rounded.
 
                         I almost laughed when she, a full foot taller, sank hip-deep into mud,                                                             grasping at reeds, legs whelmed by flooded grass
                                                                            all but washed up and hoared.
 
                                                                        A child’s fear of death: dying where no one                                                                    can see you.
 
                                                    I put all my weight into pulling her by the forearms,                            screaming and digging nails in her skin, fearing I would have to live with                     that vision of half her body sticking up out of the ground.
 
                                                                  But soon the earth loosed
                                            and out she came, short nothing but a flip-flop, and we ran back
                                                        in tears thinking we had edged a place we could not recover from.
 
                                            Unrecoverable: at age fifteen, I’m driven to an empty house by a man
                                                        in the dark. Everything below my hips paralyzed, blackened.
                                                                  It is me half-sunk.
 
                                                    The mud back then a pelvic rehearsal,
                                              unreal, in the end nothing like
                                      the panic-sound of leaves torn by deer against my window before sleep,
                                              my chest under pressure, under
                          the shoulders of a man who locked all the doors
 
 
 

Lydia Brown is a poet and Ph.D. student in English at the University of Virginia. Her recent work appears or is forthcoming in Reservoir, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Millions, and Victorians: A Journal of Literature and Culture. She received her B.A. from William & Mary in 2017 and lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.