How I Moved to Nevada
After Chen Chen
With sunscreen. With my North Carolina driver’s license.
Without the canopy of beech and ash. With my mother’s
mother’s jawline. Without the copperheads that lived
under the front porch. With answers, short to long,
depending, to the question Why did you move here?
With the comfort of a beloved daughter right across town.
Without the roof-thrum of rain. With hearing aids, gray hair,
my mother’s voice still in my head. With the fifty voicemails
she left before she no longer knew how to make a call.
Or a sentence. Or what my name was. Everything is fine.
I’m tired of telling you bad things. Everything is okay.
With the binder of childhood poems I can no longer find.
Without a single stick of furniture from my mother’s house.
With Elizabeth Bishop, Larry Levis, and Ellen Bryant Voigt.
With the reluctant humility of age. With the jar of homemade
marmalade she gave me one Christmas years ago. Without
a dog or a cat. With an animal fear of the August smoke
that sleeps on this side of the mountains. With the little chest
where she kept all the letters I wrote her, and her dulcimer,
her dulcimer. With a bereft and bewildering anger.
With the yellow bear she made me, its terrycloth fraying,
its stuffing dry and crumbling now through the seams.
Kathy Nelson, recipient of the James Dickey Prize and MFA graduate of the Warren Wilson Program for Writers, is author of The Ledger of Mistakes (Terrapin Books). Her work appears or is forthcoming in About Place, LEON Literary Review, New Ohio Review, The Comstock Review, Tar River Poetry, Stirring Literary Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere.