Four Poems

By Amy Woolard


The bees are turning the house to gold, one floorboard at a time. They slip in through the sockets in fives & sixes, & turn off all the lights as they go. They glow with the gold they bring, their dangling, shimmering limbs like staples pulled bent from the left corners of reports. The gold spreads like loose pages, skimming the floor as it falls, slipping under sofas, into the bathtub, out through the open windows onto the lawn. This is what you wanted; this is what you asked for. We were built for this task, is what our golden queen told us, murmuring to us even as she slept in the same corner of our own gold house. The bees have mixed gold into your lotion, into your furniture polish; they have sifted gold into your coffee & frozen it into the ice cubes you drop in your whiskey. The golden tines of your comb have pulled blonde streaks through your black hair, a look the bees love on you. And there, just under your top left rib, a new queen is turning in her sleep. And when you sigh, you exhale the finest gold silt, softly, softly, soft as your breasts cupped in your own two hands, until it’s everywhere & lost all at once, the way a girl goes missing—a sting that smarts & swells, then sinks back into the skin, borderless.



It ends with the house in the sky
Slamming back on its acreage. The girl

Inside is not the same girl who lived there in
The beginning—hide the pieces, where they may be found.

The wind begins to die down. Her pick-up truck’s gone
Feral in the tall grass. It is awful hot. It’s ok, you’re still

An animal, she says to her self. Animals are darned
With their past lives. The front porch can’t help

But laugh at such a rookie mistake, claps
Its door, makes its ends meet. Either end

Of the truck’s bench seat could prop her up—&
Home is just wherever you park yourself, right? Home is

Wherever you land. Hide your eyes if you have to,
Put your hand to your gut like a spoon, a belt.

But soon, you know you’ll bring yourself
To look for her, to place her at the scene.

Whatever a girl gone leaves behind becomes
Haunting. If she returns, it is a blessing.

What would do it any justice? What I can
Tell you is: no one is left hanging.



No kidding! A house killed my sister too, I’m telling you. It didn’t fall
On top of her, no, but it snipped off a little lock of her each day,
Pickpocketed a small piece of her & replaced it with an exact painted
Replica each day. Then the misdirections, sleights of hand, the way
A best friend is stolen by a new girl in town—one day she has plans
Without you: to pull a liquor bottle out of a cabinet, to crack
An icetray, to lock a door without you. One day she’s giving you
A dupatta as a present, & the next she’s the dupatta, getting caught
In the spokes of a wheel that is actually just her mind, turning
In its blacked-out sleep, like fan blades. But whose house isn’t
Out to get them, I s’pose? Whose house doesn’t ignite its own
Gas burners once in a while, loosen a board or two at the top of
A staircase? I mean, it kills me, though, the way photos of her begin to
Look so obvious, now that she’s gone. Now that she’s gone, it’s like you
Can see the Springsteen in her eyes, you know? A kind of filter on them
You could find on a smartphone camera now, called “Missing Girl”
Or “Cold Case” or “How She’ll Look When She Shows Up
In That Reoccurring Dream.” Her fingers were like the tiny branches
Off an olive tree—twigs, really—not brittle, but no good for sizing
A pour of whiskey, if you get me. And her shoes—there’s no easy death
For them, right? Impatient ghosts in & of themselves, bar customers
That don’t have to go home but can’t stay here. But stay they do,
Chucked off, toppled heels in the hallway. Any good mind would
See them & expect to find her upstairs in bed, a pair of glasses you look
Everywhere for & then find they’ve been resting on your head
The whole time. I mean, what would you do with your sister’s shoes?
I’ve worn them, I admit it—there are times I think they’ll never
Come off, that it would take some sort of spell. But I should stop
Now; I should go. Really, it’s not my story to tell, I keep telling myself.
I’d shake your hand, but it seems mine is practically made of ice, &
I’d kiss you, full on the lips in a heartbeat, but turns out my mouth will
Put you to sleep. Knock you right out, I tell you what, & you’ll wake up in
Some field full of flowers, still in your stilettos, & never want to go home.




The question suggests to the witness the answer the examining party desires. You were waiting for me out on the porch? Stayed out there even when the storm kicked up? The girl has arranged her dolls in order of their intelligence. The ones whose eyes can open & close are either first or last in line. Turkey vultures stutter up above, lashes caked with mascara. The scent of something coming. You don’t think you might’ve been mistaken.

Of course things begin to go south just before supper. Salted watermelon on a plate in the kitchen. White seeds like coughed-up aspirin some throat refused. The sky breathes in, the opposite of a sigh. The fat rain comes as far as the front steps & gives its best advice: ask questions first; ask forgiveness later. All the dumb flowers stay open anyway.


photo(1)Amy Woolard is a public policy attorney working on child welfare, juvenile justice, child poverty, and homelessness issues in Virginia. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Virginia School of Law. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Virginia Quarterly ReviewFenceCourt GreenIndiana ReviewThe Journal, and Best New Poets 2013, among others, while her essays have appeared on Slate, The Rumpus, Indiewire, and elsewhere. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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