Remedios Varo

here is a memory of a boy who died in the dirt

brian underwood was my childhood friend

who lived two doors down on north 6th street

we told ghost stories

in the tree house

my father built

and threw tin cans

into helen schuffler’s flower boxes


after brian died

i went to the bluffs

to the place where we dug

deep into the earth

with bent spoons

listened for owls




there pressed up against mother elm

whose bony graceful roots

reach out of the earth

i climbed into grief’s arms

and tumbled long and far

into her starless moonless embrace


this is where brian died

curled up like a baby

in the belly of the earth

after the terror

maybe it was peaceful there

in the rain

in the caress of the unseen world


it was a good place to die

quiet and familiar

far away from that house

from the father

who terrorized the family

with unpredictable

bouts of cruelty


the loess hills are formed

from timeworn soil

tiny granules of primordial glacier

carried by the wind

traveling great distance

to become these iowa hills

the ancient dirt

holder of antediluvian memory

is hard as onyx

in the dry hot spells of summer

and when the rains come

the loess hills can melt

like a chocolate river


when quiet inside

i see him

laughing in the tree house

sliding down wet hills

running through the alley

from a drunken father

eating orange popsicles

on front steps


the night brian died

in the undulating



some part of me

was there

a witness

traveling through

the alluvial dream river

to the place of crossing

over to the other side


he wanted out of that house

he hated being beaten

he longed for how he felt

in the hills

in the trees

free and loved



he prayed for the rain to come




the spirits of the woods

there to comfort

deer  hawk  raccoon  fox

circled him in protection

swaddled  him in feather  fur  bones  claws

soft rain soothed him

to sleep

before the torrent of mud came

returning him to the glacier

to a time

a  place

where the beauty he ached for

awaited his return


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