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Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick

The man with gold between his legs

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chewing saltine crackers on the side
of a highway in June, two roosters
beside him, one hen. A witch leaves
grief in a red truck in Orla, Texas
hanging by the neck on a pipeline
right-of-way—his daddy bargained
daughters for oil, the earth, his ashes
for a God to survey his property,
limbs, shed, homestead—strung out
on meth and strippers and his shame
gives him release through myths,
waterways, forgiveness.

After Their First Hunting Trip Together, the Son Said, Maybe We Are Meant to Live On the Earth Not Wasted All the Time

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The old man beat him until he got a hard on. He would pretend to be in a field waiting to kill a buck. A ten-point. His first with a bow. Hunting the last breath out. Frogs leaping out of the mouth. Atomic bomb-cloud of lilies. An advertisement for end times. When food will be hand-to-hand combat. Everyone helps each other die. He, stronger than his old man. The only beating, his foot against the dirt, singing, Father, Father, I loved you.

Dust Storm

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Coming home from church, it was supposed to be the day I expressed affection but we had fought the night before. About catching a break. I was driving. We were turning onto our street. Yelling. He may have been crying. From El Paso, it formed, made its way down I-20, gathering tumbleweeds into its arms, scooping children's toys into its teeth. It didn't mind what it wanted but particularly dust until it was itself a cloud willing to become a more that wasn't anything in particular, just bits of everything and everyone. Into the next day it kept rolling over bones of trees. The brown dressed body turned. Like the Greeks, we screamed into each other's throats until the world became the fight. But how beautiful, the roar of it, to fall in love with everything like freeing the clotheslines of the just-departed.

Out of the Wild City Inside a Baron Woman Into a Stream

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This is the story I told myself when I was seven,
my banner of hair a ribbon around a shadow man's neck—

In my mountain of anger lived a child-heart and goats
bleating lungs into the greenery with myths

on how to hurt oneself
above the earth—Living in a pine tree,

a woman prays to men, on them, instead of
waiting to feel how small the body is in it's waist,

wounded, picking flowers in a filed of horses where
the dark ones beat hooves into light made to breathe.

Francine Creates Her Story As If Asked to Author Her Own Birth

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Francine eats oranges like they are herself in a field after a long swim in the river next to her father's house and she is warm in the field, slightly wet. Francine understands memories are stones, some heavier than others, some shinier, too, but all are for the pocket, which could bury us if we chose to go alone into the river without St. Gabriel to save us. Francine plows her mother's bones because she's alone, she writes, inside her suffering. I want a grove, she writes, of oranges happy to be oranges and a father to tend to them while I catch fish in the river. Francine eats oranges like they are herself in a field after a long swim in the river.

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