Every pheasant is a surprise. Your uncle’s yard is out to get you—the red muddies with your foot sweat, the grass rises up like intermittent cemetery grass, hard, the kind of grass that grows from dead things and wants to take you with it under the blade that keeps it from reaching your knees. His dogs are yard dogs, bigger than you, big as you’ll ever be, an ensemble cast of perpetual substitutes without shots or collars that have to be called away from the truck bed before you can jump down. Your cousin is a boy with red hair in the yard by requirement despite the resultant freckles. His father left him with the drunk who raised him. You know what trouble is when you open the screen door. Sometimes your aunt hauls the water from the spring. You can crawl under the low trees near the road and sit in what constitutes shade. You can stand on the porch with the men and the dogs and the hornets and complain. You can go all day without going. You can go your whole life without remembering your cousin kicking you between the legs, without realizing that some same things hurt girls like hell, too, without remembering your uncle asking for his belt as you all sat in the living room with no light and not enough chairs. One day you show up to a yard bunched with birds. They look like they would like to eat your legs instead of seed corn. They look like they would not like to be in this yard, like they would do anything, suicide by child-pecking, to get out of this yard or live in the dank beneath it.
Jennifer Gravley makes her way in Columbia, Missouri. She is a writer of sentences, a watcher of bad television, and a reference and instruction librarian. Her work has recently appeared in Still: The Journal and Poetry Northwest, among others.