River Pitch

But you fractured your hipbone
falling for a boy who danced
you into thirteen jagged pieces, lace
tunic over leggings, the lank trunk
of your newly teenaged body fast-pitching
you forward, as if trying to ruin
each fine and breakable thing, the ruins
of your body’s handiwork, reduced to bone
shards. No, Mama had said when you’d pitched
a fit. You’re too young for prom. Dance
in the living room.
                         You’d plumbed her attic trunk
of moth-chewed costumes, lining the lace
of her wedding dress against the laced
bobbin of her old sewing machine, ruining
both, your zigzag stitches like rings in a trunk,
attaching branches of bodice, boned
at the buds of your breasts, twins dancing
across your chest, ready to pitch
through the bathroom window into pitch
black night with the boy who’d interlace
them, promising your first dance
but first, who’d stop at the bosque to ruin
a bottle of his father’s wine, bone-
dry under a blanket in the trunk.

How did you end in a river, his boxers for trunks,
your skin for a bathing suit, the pitch
of your voices and the waves echoing a boned-
hollow of the absent music, laced
with regret. I’ll make up for ruining
your night, he’d said. Let’s dance
here, in the water, like Baby in Dirty Dancing.

Once, you read someone found in a tree trunk
a set of human teeth while mining the ruined
coast after a hurricane. The pitch
of a quarry is the softest place—
its density of childhood bones,
corkscrew bones, forks in a river dancing
while a boy laces a willing trunk
with the pitch and fury of rock toward ruin.


Jennifer Givhan was a 2010 Pen Rosenthal Emerging Voices Fellow, as well as a 2011 St. Lawrence Book Award finalist and a 2012 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Prize finalist for her poetry collection Red Sun Mother. She was also an Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize finalist for her poetry collection Karaoke Night at the Asylum. She is an MFA candidate at Warren Wilson College, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in over fifty journals and anthologies, including Best New Poets 2013, Indiana Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, cream city review and The Los Angeles Review. She teaches composition at Western New Mexico University.