We slipped over the embankment, picked wildflowers
we thought invasive along the way.
On the trail to the mounds, our footfalls echoed,
first one then the other, the crushing of leaves,
the popping of acorns on twigs. Once we brushed through
to those shaped ancient hills, there running freely
were troops of kindergartners, construction paper
in their hands, each page colored green in circles
and curves, and flapping while they ran. Beneath
their trilling feet, were the waves of beasts and rounds
of breasts. Effigies, the literature said, commemorating
the past. Loved ones. Sacred. You tapped my shoulder,
nodded toward raised coils ridging from soil. Snake,
you said. Serpent, I corrected, and pointed
to the glossy page. A six-year-old ran by, his picture
was a reptile with legs of a man chasing a bear,
its serpentine tongue reaching, reaching. Your hand
cupped my shoulder, then slid to my breast—
first one then the other. Breasts, you said, nodding
towards twin mounds surrounded by birch and covered
with children. We sat near the edge on the underside
of cleavage—plant stems poking closer at the slope.
The wind picked up, the kids soon left, and we sank down,
rested against the swells of land. They’re full of charcoal,
you know—fuel for heat. And this seemed right,
though I had thought they were hollow, just like sculptures—
the art exists only on the outside. We slept right there,
against the rise of breasts. We hugged our hands
around their crest, felt for warmth. We rested our ears
against their tilt. Lulled in the grass, sacred and breathing.
This poem originally appeared in Volume v of The Ampersand Review.
Michelle Menting lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. Some of her other work can be read in Ascent, Redactions, Pank Magazine, Opium, Superstition Review, and other journals. She is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.
Photo copyright Libby Gowen, used by permission. Visit gowenphotography.com to see more of her work.