Devil’s Lake

Spring 2010 Issue

Anna Journey: Armchair at the Beginning of the Myth

Half hinge, half prehistoric

cornered raptor: the sound as the armchair’s lever

swings and your father rises

from mulberry velveteen. Its raptor-cry

sluices through the den, has done so for as long

as your father’s watched nature documentaries.

Laid-off biologist. His boxed wine

and socked feet. His Peace Corp pocketknife

snug as a fossil. You watch the T.V. screen’s

ginger daubs of gazelle

wobble into meat, under a leopard’s jaw. The leopard’s

melanistic, my father says, like us, Red,

and our freckles. No one else

in the family can stomach the end

of the hunt. But you watch to possess

the landscape, razed with sun, the one

wildcat whose slick coat’s

a hypnotic piecemeal. A hot pulse. Like us,

you think, father—as we step into the sun,

in our exposed skin, become another.


Everyone has one: a mother’s childhood

house, stuck in the summer

rain of some other year. The year

the basement flooded and wiped

great-aunt Hilda’s watercolors back

to an elemental pulp. She painted nothing

but flowers in the T.B. sanatorium

before she died at fifteen, forty

years ago. The new tenants have dug up

the shrub roses, repainted the coral

porch white, bordered the edge

in ox-eye sunflowers. My mother

and I drive past slowly. Only

the porch light glows. The windows

dark. My mother wonders if her deaf

Siamese still walks the piano keys

at night. If the mailbox exhales

her father’s cigar smoke, her old

maiden name. But it’s a new box,

and the flowers are rooted somewhere

we can’t reach. They bleach

to ghosts in the groundwater. No,

she hisses, as I hop from the passenger’s

side—pocketknife drawn—sever

one sunflower’s head. When I return,

slam the car door, she floors it,

holds out her one free hand.

ANNA JOURNEY is the author of the collection, If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting (University of Georgia Press, 2009), selected by Thomas Lux for the National Poetry Series. Her poems are published in a number of journals, including American Poetry Review, FIELD, and Kenyon Review, and her essays appear in Blackbird, Notes on Contemporary Literature, and Parnassus. More from this issue >