After the War

The fish, split and gutted,
jumped while limp in your hands
though it was far
from the river, and the dog whined
from the forest, would no longer
trail your truck or enter
the house. Suddenly, you had
no bug bites in August. No dark
wet marks bloomed
like mouths beneath your arms,
even as the sun made crumbling
paper of the leaves,
as neighbors fell ill
for weeks, as moths died one
by one against the windowpanes,
heaps of them quivering
in the morning wind, swirling
like ash from a fire.
The yard turned vacant but for pigweed
and tickseed. The ivy’s
severed skeleton tumbled
its backbone from the house.
What did you do, I said.
What happened to you?
But you only threw
the fish into the pan, clamped
the lid to hold it down,
and you would not relent
to its suffering. These days
my heart is always tearing
away from itself like a horse
broken loose in a storm.

Kate Gaskin's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tar River Poetry, Bellevue Literary Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Radar Poetry, and The Fourth River, among others. She grew up in Alabama and now lives in the panhandle of Florida with her husband and son.