What good is a long life? The river smells
of where it comes from

not where it is going. I’ve never lived
by water until this. I grew up between dairy

fields and oak-pine forests. Sisters
hiding behind a crushed

velvet window curtain. Girl,
static, ghost. There was a clock

high on the wall in the living
room. One night, I swear, the sound

grew so loud. My blood’s ticked ever
since. Travel far from where they raised you

and your blood will still burn.
In a dream, the lower half of my body

is buried in snow. The rest scatters
for sky. Along the river, a conspiracy

of crows take up for a white pine. A bevy
of swans follow. The contrast is too much

for the field to contain. Someone asked me
my greatest subject. Shame, I said

without thinking. My lover keeps a folding
knife in the bottom drawer of his dresser.

I like to take it
out when he isn’t here. Dig little

notches into the back of our headboard
with the tip. One for every secret

we or the water withhold.

Caitlin Scarano is a writer based in northwest Washington. She holds a PhD in English (creative writing) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MFA in Poetry from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She was selected as a participant in the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists & Writers Program and spent November 2018 in McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Her debut collection of poems, Do Not Bring Him Water, was released in Fall 2017. Her work has appeared in Granta, Carve, Colorado Review, and Poetry Northwest.