The Runoff and the Rain

It was the year you never stayed
in one town for longer than to lay bait,
be hooked through the mouth a little,
the year I moved north to the peninsula,
tried waiting
for someone to come home,
planted myself
in a rented room above a small-town bar.

It was after the spring we drank straight from the bottle
in the hills under cover
of fir needles and alder bark falling dry
from a rainless winter
and you said you wanted to leave, and I wondered if I shouldn’t
want a seat saved for me somewhere,
when we were both too polite not to
give our numbers to a man lying about wanting our help
writing letters to his landlord, when we listened
to his voicemails we’d never return
all summer we sat bare shoulder to bare shoulder
to bare shoulder damn near every night,
damn the morning, tried to understand
force and angle at the end of a pool stick,
knowing the scatter would always surprise us
like dry heat cracking before a storm.

It was between the time you told me
about the first jump you made
into a car of strangers
and the time I split the head of my first halibut with gaff,
tried to feel its fear and thank it
with its blood misting my boots
on a dock miles from where I’d wanted
to be a regular with someone,
because I wondered why I shouldn’t,
if I could,
why it should be as easy
as that.

There we lay in the dark, in the in-between,
when I’d just moved in,
me on the bed, you on the couch,
the jukebox still pulsing through the floorboards
below us. Our confessions floated like a fog
distilling in the night, and with each one we wondered
how we went on after,
and went on after,
how it could be so simple later as to not have happened,
wondered if our happiness would ever balance
the equation of how much pain we sow, if any
thing wrung from us
could outweigh the others.

In the morning it must have been warm enough
that you didn’t notice you left your coat.
Not knowing it was yours or where it came from,
I wore it every day that winter,
a little too tight on the top button.
You told me that you’d made your peace with losing it
the next time you saw me, that it was mine by then,
whose was it, really,
when we can suit ourselves to so much, and did

that year we learned that the earth doesn’t quake
and crumble from our sins but sweeps them into the water
with everything else, the mud, the blood,
the runoff to the rain and rain again,
wondering what kind of place that made this,
if we too could be swept away
that easy.

Shenan Hahn is a writer and artist based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, having recently returned home after a five-year sojourn in Oregon and Alaska. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications both online and in print, including The Baltimore Review, Apeiron Review, SOFTBLOW, Lines + Stars, The Inflectionist Review, Rust + Moth, and Riggwelter. She is the author of In the Wake (White Violet Press, 2014), a full-length collection of poetry. She is a 2008 graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s MA in Writing program, and has served in an editorial capacity for publications such as Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine, Prompt & Circumstance, and VoiceCatcher.

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