Poetry — November 28, 2011 13:46 — 0 Comments

Strangers – Ann Hostetler

Somewhere above Lincoln, Oregon
we head up an old logging trail
past manzanita and buckbrush.

Keep Out signs mark gravel driveways
nestled among the ponderosa pines, maybe
marijuana growers we’ve read about, guarding their crops

with AK-47s. For every Thoreau there’s an American
with a gun rack, you say. But we’re not
too worried. Our lungs woozy from the shallow air,

our foreheads dripping, we reach an altitude
where we can say almost anything to each other.
I tell you how I wept on a plane after an argument

with a church elder about higher education. You tell me
that no one from your church ever spoke
about your mother’s suicide. Suddenly

we see fresh paw prints in the reddish clay.
Out of nowhere two gigantic German shepherds
bound to our sides. Shaking and snorting

they shove their noses into our crotches.
I latch onto your arm. We quicken our pace,
feign a casual descent, our talk reduced

to a strained banter. The dogs, sans collars,
like oversized teenagers, playful and threatening at once.
At least we’re not riding down the switchbacks

in an ambulance. At least not yet, you say.
And then we spy the cabin driveway. We turn off
and the shepherds follow, increase their pace

to match ours. We clatter into the kitchen
and bolt the door, startle the others.
The dogs circle the house for hours.


Ann Hostetler is the author of a volume of poetry, Empty Room with Light (Cascadia 2002), and editor of A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry (Iowa 2003). Her poems have appeared in Adanna, The American Scholar, Cream City Review, Literary Mama, Poet Lore, Porcupine, The Stickman Review, Washington Square, and other places. She teaches English and creative writing at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana and is editor of the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing at www.mennonitewriting.org.

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What am I?

Bioluminescent eye
That sees by the shine
Of its own light. Lies

Blind me. I am the seventh human sense
And my stepchild,

Scientists can't find me.

Januswise I make us men;
Was my image then—

Remind me:

The awful fall up off all fours
From the forest
To the hours…

Tick, Tock: Divine me.

-- Richard Kenney