After Carrie Naughton
Tastes like honeysuckle blooming in the hills,
sweetening our spirits with every sip, replacing
the curses in our mouths with compassion.
Tastes like buckshot and deer blood when
our neighbor hit the bull’s-eye he was aiming
for on the chest of the doe, and she bled into the land.
Tastes like mason jars full of mulberries that we
could not collect by the fistful because there were so many
that they migrated into the language of our thirst.
Westwood well water is flecked with the gold
buried beneath these hills, but we are the fools
who kept drinking instead of digging.
Tastes like a mosaic of garbage: crushed beer
bottles, china cabinets, convection ovens, bald
tires, chicken bones—one families’ scrapyard
was the fountain of youth that kept us innocent
when the twin towers fell, when our town endured
the Afghan war and our brothers came home
in body bags and were buried in cheap coffins
you can taste in the water table every time rainwater
tries to wash their names out of our mouths.
Tastes like generations of families picnicking
with sweet tea, lemonade, and venison when
there was no sane reason to be hopeful other than this water.
Tastes like the plates of steel our neighbors
stayed up late making on the graveyard shift
and we saw glistening on flat beds in the morning.
This water washed decades of wounds when there was no money,
not a drop of good medicine in the cabinets to heal the aching,
so it seeped into our bones, made us tough like Bethlehem steel.
Tastes like the ecstatic particles of lightning bolts
that struck the trees, shot through the roots
into the chemistry of the water table.
Now I hear God talking through my teeth
and moving me to speak in tongues when I sleep.
Tastes like tilled topsoil scoured by generations of hands
searching for homegrown solutions to the specter of hunger
that hovered in their kitchens.
Tastes like the blizzard snow on our sledding slope
when we raced each other to the bottom of youth
and our bodies split into the mouths of daredevils,
speaking to the earth in vernaculars of blood
when we collided with trees and mailboxes.
Westwood well water is the humble colossus
that won’t make the front page or the 6pm news,
the immigrant dream my ancestors entered Ellis Island to achieve.
Sounds like a water main bursting, refusing to fall silently
into blue-collar bellies, so it barrels through the woods, exploding
out of my mouth in a genealogy of thirst.
Christian Sammartino is the Editor-In-Chief of Rising Phoenix Review and the Managing Editor and Poetry Editor for L’Éphémère Review. He is currently studying Philosophy at West Chester University. His poetry is influenced by life in the Pennsylvania Rustbelt near his hometown of Coatesville. His work has appeared in Words Dance, Voicemail Poems, Lehigh Valley Vanguard, Ghost City Review, Sea Foam Mag, Thirteen Myna Birds, Yellow Chair Review and others. He was a Resident Poet for Lehigh Valley Vanguard during the summer of 2015. His first chapbook, Keystones, was released by Rising Phoenix Press in December 2014.