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Up Yonder
Lou Annabell (Victoria University, Aotearoa/New Zealand)



In your red pickup we arrive back to your childhood. The rocking chairs, the trailer park, the long grass, the basketball court. The saxophones of N’awlins still want us to dance, but we are too shy, too unsure of what it is we are.

At the supermarket we get a pack of cigarettes to share. A habit we’ve taken with us from Peru, where tobacco circled around our heads, cheap and sacred. The checkout girl has a thicker accent than you – is she speaking underwater? Naw, just friends you say, smiling. She takes in my shaved head, my neck tat. You folks get home before the storm.

You light a cigarette while breathing in. Moon! you exclaim, Up yonder! And that gets me in the chest, points to the distance which will soon fall beneath my feet. A landscape unknown; without a name; full of quilted color; then clouds, clouds, clouds. I touch your hand and take the cigarette, let it give me that dizzying sense of enamourment, energy.

We pull up outside your momma’s. Your momma wants me to taste the South. Stuffed okra, collards, grits. Your sister walks out from the garage crying. Your dog is dead, she says, he was found on the side of the road.

Your trailer looks more precarious than I remember – are its walls made of paper? In the bathroom I pull a tick from beneath the skin of my stomach. The cats have not been spayed. There’s six of them, three are pregnant. They sleep in the pot plants. The chickens do not have a coop. They shit on the deck and I sweep it, call a cat to me and sit. There are no red cardinals, it is night, but here are fireflies, and the dog is in a black bag. I breathe out a different kind of smoke while you dig the hole – cold. I pull the cat closer to my chest. I remember the rosary beads given to me at baptism, they were white, like pearls. What do I say over and over? Hail Mary, full of grace.

I didn’t know the earth was red I say, as we stand beside the cavity where the black fur rests. It smells of onion weed. You lean in and touch the dog’s head, grasp a fist of dirt, drop it. The sound is like horse hooves as it lands on the stiff body. With each fist the sound softens, the horses run into the distance.


When birds flew into windows my mama taught me how to flick water and bless them. She wore copper bracelets for healing arthritis. They glittered as she flicked, added to the feeling of blessing.


I take the silver dog bowl and walk toward the spring. It murmurs from beneath the barbed wire fence and violets. I carry the bowl back slowly, gathering blackberry thorns in my feet as I go. I flick the water upon the fresh earth, then leave you there.

Inside, I fold your sheet back into a triangle, so you can climb in easy. So you can sleep. Sleep before you drive me to Atlanta and I fly home. Sleep with the red dirt beneath your nails. Sleep knowing what is underneath. I put the okra in my carry on, wrapped in paper, for later, for when I’m Yonder.


Two years after entering the Amazon, in an orchard on the edge of Tikapa Moana, I dream I’m swimming around the pontoon, where you sit. I see something iridescent beneath the water, lying on the mud. I’m looking at it. You say I won’t let your head go beneath the water, stay here. Like you know what I’m thinking. Where are you? you say when I look away. Stay here. But I dive under, and when I come up, I’m awake.



Lou Annabell is a poet from Aotearoa, New Zealand. She is currently completing her MA at the International Institute of Modern Letters through Te Herenga Waka / Victoria University. Her poetry explores her relationship to water, violence and resistance.

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