Alice Pettway is a former Lily Peter fellow, Raymond L. Barnes Poetry Award winner, and three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her first full-length collection, The Time of Hunger | O Tempo de Chuva, is available now from Salmon Poetry. A second book, Moth, is forthcoming in 2019. Currently, she lives and writes in Shanghai.
I changed shoes for the burial.
The earth, soft from rain,
was hungry for the black stems
of my funeral heels.
It was hungry for you too,
waiting only for lurid green turf
to give way to reality,
a hole gouged in a field.
The funeral director looked
away; your brothers
pulled back plastic ground,
took up shovels.
I grasped a handle too—bent
my woman’s body into pivot
of muscle and dirt until the throb
of earth on wood faded, until soil
landed on soil as softly as snow
on snow, until there was no hole.
The men stood silent. Burial
is no more a man’s task
than birth is.
the power failed.
Dark sifted through cold,
a halo of shadow around downed towers.
The city waited. The country waited.
Hogs lay frozen against the ditch,
smelling of snow, flesh crystallized
beneath skin. We waited
for the ground to thaw.