Next spring my grandfather’s trellised pink roses will bloom without him.
               My husband prunes the canes for him,    anyway.

My grandfather’s house shrinks in too much stillness. I miss
               his scent     mint candy and Old Spice.

                                                            Where is the pillow from his chair?

From the front porch I watch barges on the river at the edge of town.
               The sound of their horns pushes us to leave and the sunrise follows us

as we make our way from his house, our destination hours,
               hours away. The car shifts to second gear, climbs the highway ribbon

through rain and Forbes Trail, and we talk of those who shoved and pulled
               their mud-clogged carts and muddied horses up mud-slugged paths,

around immovable boulders, no rest, left those they loved
               to break their way to the unknowns.

We too are cut off
                                                                               from family.

I keep my thumb on an old map, count off small and smaller towns we pass

               Berkley Springs                 Jimtown                         Burnt Factory

Now thumb on Dismal Swamp—how bad could it have been
         to camp along its edge,
                 how lonely,         and what happened to the person

who so damned this place?





Laurel Szymkowiak is a poet from Western Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in Cagibi Literary Journal, Gyroscope Review, Twenty-two Twenty-eight, and Voices from the Attic, in addition to other publications. Her chapbook, What Choir of Reality Will Sing Today?, received Honorable Mention in the Cutbank Chapbook contest, 2021. She is a regular participant in Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops.

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