by Meg Kearney

Eliza Summer was hanging socks on the backyard line
when she heard it. Clothes pins rained on the ground.

Lord have mercy, she prayed. Her hound lifted his
head to howl, then changed his mind. Diane Johnson

and her son Kip were peeling potatoes when they heard it.
Out on their porch, Kip still held his knife. Diane touched

his arm as if to ask, Hear that? Kip claimed it was a bird,
but Eliza knew it was that newlywed girl in the old white

house. Mary. It was a limpkin, Kip insisted, the swamp—.
His mother clucked. What did a boy know about heartbreak?

When Jen Kroll heard it, she called her father for the first time
in thirteen years. Joe Sprague slipped in the tub when he heard

it, and Paul Hoag at the diner shook coffee in his eggs. Diane
whispered, That Mary came in the clinic last week, forearms

shredded like—.
She took Kip’s knife. Nudged him—Go shoot
Sissy Freer cut off the tip of one braid with a tree pruner

when she heard it. Diane wished she didn’t know about Mary.
Inside the house, she crossed herself, lit the wrong end

of a cigarette. When she called him in, Kip missed his shot.
He knew plenty about heartbreak. He’d had a father.

from All Morning the Crows (The Word Works 2021)  

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