KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 12: Summer 2019
Poem: 282 words


by Jessie Ehman

In one tradition, brush devils run through 
the hills at night. From a distance 
these creatures appear as many things: 
small fires, flashlight beams, constellations. 
The people say if you manage 
to grab hold of one, you will be rich. 
I don’t remember my grandfather, 
but the house haunts me still: a drawer 
filled with cameo brooches; the coat 
closet at the foot of the stairs, where 
I found three dimes and a wooden 
nickel. Most of all: the time I stood 
beneath the eaves in a pink bathing suit, 
watching the warm rain empty into the street. 
Some thoughts on loss: forest ranger Terry 
Lynn Barton was sentenced to twelve years  
in prison after causing the worst wildfire 
in state history. The accelerant: 
love letters from her estranged husband. 
Another loss: My friend works on a ranch 
in Sterling, Colorado. Each year, dozens 
of red-tailed hawks are killed by flying 
into power lines. It is his job 
to retrieve the bodies. He picks them up 
by the talons, tail feathers splayed 
like the folds of a painted fan. 
In the dry months, the birds will fall 
to the ground, immolated in flame. 
At a monastery in Meteora, 
we are shown the baskets and ropes used 
to carry fourteenth century monks 
over thousand foot cliffs. The human 
will to survive is amazing, the guide 
says. I think of Catholic school. Times 
we met behind the portables, 
where the webs of cellar spiders clung 
to drainpipes. I cupped the arachnid 
in my hands, watched the delicate swell 
of the abdomen. You took it from me 
then, peeling back the skeletal 
appendages so like our own, 
until the body quivered and went slack. 


—Published previously in Saxifrage (Volume 39), Pacific Lutheran University’s annual anthology; appears here with poet’s permission.

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