Kelsey D. Mahaffey


I could have died on that hill. My own
knife staked clear to the right side—heart 

nailed to that cross. I hunted and gathered 
the sharpest stones for the task, and 

polished my favorite blade—proud of my strength.
I ranted and raged, clawed my way to the top, 

only to find there was no mountain, nothing left 
to stake my claim. Nothing more 

to stand on but the shore of an empty lake, 
the sky cloudless—a deep impossible blue. 

What use are rain clouds now that our fire is out? 

I wade the weeds, their yellow carpet laid bare—
fields of dandelions, heads roaring in the light. 

And you there, your face grave, digging in the dirt—
eyes sunk like you can’t leave the night. 

Your arms heave, hundreds of stones hauled up 
from below, then offer a jagged rock. What do I give 

now you’ve gathered enough of your own? 
What good is justice now when now just is? 

I drop my pack, kiss your blistered feet, gather 
your arms in mine. The way out is always in. 

I smooth your wrists before the slice—
bleed my own veins dry.

We are yellow weeds rising from the dust.
We are the dust rising yellow weeds.

The stillness will come if we let it. If we sink
to its deafening, the wind will anchor and sigh—

What use of so much dirt but to dig? 
What use of so many stones but to build?

Kelsey D. Mahaffey

has published work in Eunoia Review, The Keeping Room, and the anthology Each Phrase a Step. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.