My brothers will not name their sons Hiram though I see them—
bird-chested boys with floppy ears and big noses climbing trees
and throwing rocks through windows of abandoned garages,
whose shouting springs kernels from their cobs.
But when my brothers and I meet for dinner and speak of our future
children, it’s like children reconstructing the lives of dinosaurs.
We end up arguing, and those shirtless barefoot rascal boys
are whisked back inside their husks. I go to bed and dream my womb
as an ark, filled not with children, nor pairs of animals, but leaf blight,
broken spinning wheels, severed hands warped with arthritis.
Morning. Watching the half-frozen river collect geese,
I know I’m a fool for whatever’s gone away.
I tell my husband my dream of the ark, another of raising canaries
in a basement, their bodies yellow ornaments in trees prospering
without sunlight, their crisp leaves, when rattled, sparking like aluminum.
And while I interpret these visions as signs we will never grow
our own blueberries, gather eggs from our own hens, he looks at me
like I’m speaking Dutch. He says too often I extrapolate
an entire imaginary alphabet from a single letter.
In other words, relax. Outside, his shovel slings snowdrifts.
But I know my brothers will not name their sons Hiram
and I will have no daughter named Whitt,
though she often appears, smoking a joint on the beach,
her new tattoo of a skull laughing on her shoulder.
She hates when I call her lily-pad.
She flings curse words at the sky like empty beer cans.
Mile long hair, voice like moss-coated stone, I imagine
her into more and more beauty, while also fashioning
her a weak heart. I warn her the future is a skinned animal
stalking us all. I tell her the swan’s neck is a noose.
Winter trees braid the white sky; my husband shakes snow
from his boots and comes inside.
We drink tea. I remind him today is the shortest day.
But what I mean is, I want to unbutton the future’s jacket
and see a breathing lung. I mean, if we indulged in a dream
of new Hirams and Kathryns, new Edwins and Whitts,
if we kissed open their eyes, inhaled their birthy scent,
would the other dream, of keeping the farm, replanting orchards,
and raising goats, vanish? Neither dream is trustworthy.
Besides my desire is like a child’s wish for her toy doll
to mend its broken leg. My husband would argue you can’t mend
what isn’t broken. My brothers would suggest I’m in love
with an idea that doesn’t exist. And they are all probably right.
But I hear the doll weep. I feel her broken leg like it is my own.
Amie Whittemore earned her MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in North American Review, Smartish Pace, Gettysburg Review, Cimarron Review and elsewhere. She won a 2013 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize and the 2012 Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival Poetry Prize. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.