Habitation

By Jennifer O'Grady b. 1963 Jennifer O'Grady
The long road south, the pavement flat   
and black as a dash without end, no signs,   

no houses, the heat like an unseen fog   
and the sun a swollen crimson clot

above fields where frazzle-haired palm trees rose   
sporadic and unwieldy, the miles   

of pasture where cattle of every conceivable   
color, rust and tobacco and ashen, fed   

and nursed their stumbling young,   
heavy heads bent to the ground.   

And insects that crashed against windshield   
so tiny, no body was left behind.   

Then a wooden shack where we stopped to pee   
and the shock of iron-red flecks against   

bowl, the water placid, unmoved.   
There was hardly any pain.   

What could we do but continue on   
as scattered street-lamps gradually revealed   

a landscape inhabited once again: the still      
shuttered windows of bungalows pink   

as scrubbed flesh, the small dark yards of abandoned   
Bigwheels and plots of petunias or cukes,   

the closed, expectant mailboxes   
and the living already dead inside me.

Source: Poetry (July 2000).

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This poem originally appeared in the July 2000 issue of Poetry magazine

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July 2000

Biography

Jennifer O'Grady grew up in New York City. She holds a BA from Vassar and an MFA from Columbia University. Her first book of poems, White (1999), won the Mid-List Press First Series Award and a Greenwall grant from the Academy of American Poets. Her poems have appeared in many publications including Harper's magazine, the Yale Review, the Georgia Review, the Kenyon Review, Seneca Review, Southwest Review, The Writer's Almanac . . .

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