Rebecca Gayle Howell

We Do Not Know What We Do Not Know

The drops sound like rocks thrown in a steel tub;

the window glass taps, Not today. Not today.

Dust to mud, the crew and I lay sod

and expect New England. I should listen.

My grace is sufficient, Brother Slade reminds us.

He and I take off our shoes and stand stooped,

washing. He is tall for a Bible man and with red hair.

The air is almost oceanic. I do not trust him.

Everything dies, I tell him a lover I once had

said that each night. Slade rises to bend backward,

his hand on his hip, his eyes open straight to the sun.



An earlier version of this poem first appeared in the Oxford American Issue #84 (Spring 2014) and is from American Purgatory (Eyewear Publishing, 2017).