Beth Oast Williams


for Maeve Kennedy McKean and her son Gideon

First responders find both bodies underwater,

but no mention of the ball. Textured

lines, soft rubber, make it easy to catch.

Red, it’s easy to see against the sky.

Third grade comes back to me, recess,

games in an open field. How we laughed

when Teresa’s shoe flew off. How we cheered

when Steve rounded home.

We would have chased a foul into the river,

high-fived at the luck of a nearby boat.

We would have paddled to the drifting ball,

saved it from the bay’s mounting waves,

straddled it like a flotation device

when the canoe tipped over, hugged it

like a child does a mother. Am I wrong

to wonder where the kickball blew?

A spot of red on water beacons

any head, any boat to turn. What floats

ends up still floating until it loses

all its breath, or it rides an incoming tide

and gets caught in someone’s backyard.

I respond to marsh grass waving, scan

the edge of shore for a color like blood,

a broken heart, the skyburn just before night.

Eve’s Garden

Those who believe the seed

came first say the garden

grew out of a celestial hand.

They value the size of a leaf

in covering a man.

Those who think the chicken

came first know how scared

Eve was to cross the road.

She took that first step

for the rest of us, reached

out her bare arm

for what looked ripe.

Organic fruit hung

like the truth, and she picked it,

she bit it, she tried to share it.

No myth talks about the length

of her nails, how she might

have chewed them like the skin

of forbidden flesh. No myth

explains how she fastened

fresh leaves around her

waist, how she helped

Adam into man’s first

pants. I go to the grocer

and buy bananas, buy grapes,

leaving apples to those

who think Pink Ladies grew

in Eden, leave the figs

for those who prefer to hide.

Beth Oast Williams’s poetry has appeared in West Texas Literary Review, Wisconsin Review, Glass Mountain, and The Bookends Review, among others. She was nominated for the 2019 Pushcart Prize in poetry, received second place in the 2019 Poetry Matters Project, and was a semi-finalist for Poet’s Billow 2018 Atlantis Award.

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