by Brad Efford
Pock-marked home of tractors
Brad Efford was a finalist for Shenandoah's Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets in 2012. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Oxford Magazine, Juked, The Fiddleback, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from Hollins University and lives in Richmond, VA.
on the highways, emerald and gold—
northern Minnesota preens
in the summer, celebrates its nights'
dramatic chills, the baying of coyotes.
We buy swimsuits extra long, DEET
ourselves just inside the dilapidating screen
door, and step out to gather stones
for polishing in the shallow riverbed—
they glitter dull as unburied gems when
we hold them to the sun. In July,
Moose Lake is still polar-cold, better suited
for arctic terns than long-limbed, sun-
burned boys. We sprint across its pebble
shore to warm up on the way, blood rushing
smart through our bodies, fast enough
to get us to the water. Here we've spent
half our lives scraping dried blood
from old bug bites, crossing the high grass
to the outhouse after midnight, the moon
bear-sized, aurora borealis, though
faint, across the sky—we see ourselves
too much in every fearsome thing.
Bands of colors we thought we knew
before, we know no other way now: fire-pink
and -blue, pale green of dragonfly
wings, orange of the bottoms of our feet.
Fourth-grade skipper. Animal bone
collector. We watched each other grow,
and grew. Sent letters home on old newsprint
and bathed with the door half-cracked
for the steam, posing in the mirror palmed
clean, three hairs apiece sprouting
thin as ripped-out beetle legs
from the concave of our chests. We raced
everywhere—to the barn loft, the dinner
bell, the thin-skinned feral dogs sniffing
clover on the roadside. We bolted
from the kneeling stance, made for
the lake unbound by light, and dove.
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