It's the winding road I remember, the young pine trees given over to the wisteria vines, a thousand purple blooms, their breath sweet and sharp like an Old Fashioned nestled around a single cube of ice laced with sugar swirl. The rock stream guttering into the pasture after a good rain. There were two horses with funny names on that piece of land, the bay and the black, gated by the blackberry thorn fence, their canes that shot between the wire. How many summers did I comb down the line with the bay licking the back of my neck, snorting in my ear? How many bucketfulls did I present to my mother with bloody fingers dyed purple? How old was I when I learned to live without a father? How many times did I chase kittens behind the house with melting Twinkies in my hands for bait? How hard did my mother swat them for shredding the loaves of bread after I begged her to let them wild and loose into the house? I can see them all clearly now, white paws high tailing through the door, the shape of them, like tiny nimble ghosts, disappearing beneath the giant magnolia tree blooming white in the sun just beyond the fence line. They are blowing right past the kibble tins, they are leaving me for good.
Joette Varnado earned her MFA in poetry at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale where she serves as Assistant Editor at Crab Orchard Review. A native of Houston, Texas, she is the second place winner of the 2020 Louisiana State Poetry Society Award from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, and her poetry has either appeared or is forthcoming in Poet Lore, The American Journal of Poetry, The Midwest Quarterly, Encore Prize Poems, Inscape and elsewhere. Joette and her new husband hope to travel abroad one day.