welcome home, starling

you are safe now



CG’s hair is grizzled & yellow from peroxide baths & age,

like the hibiscus he coaxed into bloom, held gentle

between the rope-warped joints of his middle & ring fingers

to show me at six—just old enough to repeat his syllables

back to him, too young to remember. His eyes didn’t stop

flicking over the flora he rooted in broken PVC piping—

this was his watermark on the mountain, his chaos

garden with Biblical names he would exhale low

like still waters. I’ve returned, walked the gravel

like a ghost trying to fit my sneakers where his boots fell.

The peroxide didn’t save him; nature has retaken the slopes,

greens & browns billowing up from run-off ditches,

shading the pretty, delicate things out of existence.

My eyes flick: up to the dilapidated house, to the gully

left of the road, to the mass of summer swallowing the rise.

I am my grandfather, searching for something that can’t be found,

but there! Bursts of color! Pieces of his weathered soul

resilient against time — a decade passed & still, his blood

in generations. I did not understand, childhood a blanket

over my eyes, the tenderness of his cattle-drive fingers

as he cupped a life in his hands, not plucking it. Now,

a bloom on the gravel by our feet: yellow, but laced

with death. I stoop to one knee, brush the clay from its lips.


Riley Woods is a recent graduate of Stetson University. His work covers a variety of topics, often in an attempt to peel back the layers of self and societal formations. He will be attending the University of Montana's MFA program for poetry in the fall. His work has appeared in Oberon Poetry Magazine, Backlash Press, Obra/Artifact, and The Bees are Dead.
wilted rose

wilted rose

Litany of Apologies for the Sad Days

Litany of Apologies for the Sad Days