Ellyn Lichvar

Moving Back Home

If I saw myself as others do,
     I’d join the circus. A horseback
parade of sequins, hidden whips.
     Or I’d travel back in time, step
from the deck of a worn ship,
     soot-soaked skin absorbing new sun.
But my stampless passport falls
     into the grass and the knees of my jeans
wear through. The windshields
     of parked cars lining the street tell me
rain is coming and I remind myself
     not to look up for a while.
My mother’s shoes are large
     and I put them on, walk around back
to pull weeds. I know she can see me
     through the window, trying
to make sense of the mess she’s planted.
     All plants look like weeds
for the first few weeks and if I did
     ride a horse, it’d be barebacked,
barefooted, my fists full of hair.
     Or I’d be a lion tamer, placing an icy
hand into a hulking mouth, trusting
     myself to trust. The crabgrass
is the most stubborn and feels good
     when it finally comes loose, the ripping
up of root like the cracking knuckles
     of held hands, the slapping sound
across the face of someone
     who asked for it but didn’t know
you had it in you. What does she think
     when she watches me wrap my fingers
around the dandelion’s neck?
     What would happen if I just packed up
and moved to Barcelona? I know
     my mother will bring a towel for me
to wipe my hands on before I come back in
     her house. But I told her if I was going to live
here again, I’d clean up all this mess

Ellyn Lichvar is the assistant managing editor of The Louisville Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Whiskey Island, Parcel, A Narrow Fellow, The Boiler Journal, and elsewhere. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.