At home, the chicken coop was more sturdy
than this house where the women gathered
like hens around the grandmother in the box,
my mother’s gram, laid out there in the front room,
surrounded by the flowers that grew in the hills.
I turned eight that day and no one remembered.
They were thinking about death, but I was worried
About the Cuyahoga-sized crick, about squatting
over the hole in the outhouse out back.
There might be snakes like the ones in the service,
relatives I didn’t know swaying like the snakes
they held, while I blinked and blinked, certain
it was a bad dream, waiting for the birthday cake
that had to come, trying to keep my balance
on the rope bridge between the crick’s banks
knowing it was the only way back.