Justin Carter

Insect Life of Texas

Mother, tell us which way pine needles
     point before a storm. Tell us

which patterns of snake we must run from,
     which we can hold in our hands.

It was before the ant hills grew larger
     than my grandmother’s fence post,

before the chinaberry saplings grew in the yard
     & made the land valueless—

Before we learned how one self could fit
     into another self, & all the reasons

we were never allowed to cross the street
     behind the playground, I learned

that underneath our feet was possibility—
     that forty years of derricks bobbing

the South Texas dirt may have missed us.
     Stained men dug up the yard, forced

the cattle into long abandoned cages, & winter
     began with the construction metal,

shining bright, & the gone trees discarded.
     When they found oil in the neighbor’s soil,

we asked God why them, their three-story home
     already built off in the woods while we

struggled to keep the siding from molding,
     hosing it down twice every month.

Justin Carter is a PhD student at the University of North Texas. The winner of the 2014 Sonora Review Poetry Prize, his poems appear in Birdfeast, The Collagist, Hobart, Ninth Letter, and Whiskey Island. He co-edits Banango Street and Poets On Sports, and internets at http://justinrcarter.tumblr.com.