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Mary Crockett Hill

Abecedarian for Lost Time

from An Alphabet of Celebrities by Oliver Herford

Above the ridge, catalpas jut
between my outstretched fingers and the failing
clarity of a six o’clock sky. This field marks its
distances in boneset, white snakeroot, blue mist—
everything becoming what a moment before it was not.
First, the hillside burgeons past its swath of seedy
grace, then comes dusk, then night.
How can I spot the difference between what
I am in this light and what I must somehow
justify: she, there at our
kitchen table mid-morning, chipped mug
lukewarm before her. Was she any
Mary I recognize?
Or, mostly no. Now, as a wisp of cloud above us
purples into bruise, she will lower her head, plant her
quiet footfalls in the grass toward home. I am
right to suspect she may not be myself after
so many evenings walking away from
the shell of our body, the locust
understory invisible beneath our
visible feet. When she leaves, who is left
wandering the meadow, spent wheat where we began,
X not marked on any map—and this rankle inside me
yearning for what? Another sky, and the next, its
zenith and nadir. All of it. Always. And mine.


About the writer:
Mary Crockett Hill is an Appalachian poet and novelist hailing from the hinterlands of southwestern Virginia. In poetry, she is the author of A Theory of Everything and If You Return Home with Food, and in fiction, How She Died, How I Lived. Mary’s poetry has appeared in The Paris Review, Electric Literature, Best of the Net, and Poetry Daily, among other venues. She teaches at Roanoke College and edits Roanoke Review.

Images: Illustrated capitals from the series published as An Alphabet of Celebrities by Oliver Herford (1863-1935). 1899. Public domain.

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