Cow-licked, freckled, skinny as a barn cat—
she had me on my back,
was pulling me right out of my blue jeans.
It was late summer, at least,
and the river had the clean stink of gravel—
no rotting tires or mud-foundered bullhead—
a warm wind silvered
the leaves of cottonwoods,
the crows making a racket
in the stripped chokecherries like it might
even matter.
Maybe it does matter—
the grass itched my bare ass, her thighs
pearled as river shells.

Joe Wilkins is the author of a novel, Fall Back Down When I Diepraised as “remarkable and unforgettable” in a starred review at Booklist and short-listed for the First Novel Award and the Pacific Northwest Book Award. He is also the author of a memoir, The Mountain and the Fathers, and four collections of poetry, including Thieve When We Were Birds, winner of the Oregon Book Award. Wilkins grew up north of the Bull Mountains of eastern Montana and lives now with his family in western Oregon, where he directs the creative writing program at Linfield University.