Brooklyn Recollections of the Blue Ridge

by Eric Janken Issue: Spring/Summer 2020

For Maria


               The only way I can remember late May in the Blue Ridge
is with my fingers in my hair, as if touching the stamen of a bloodroot.
               Our AC unit blew a fuse and we passed a soaked washcloth
from neck to neck, listening to a black fly infiltrate a pile of lemons.

The Watauga River still flows thick with yellow-green 
               pollen near an angler who, stripped to his underwear, lounges 
under an ash with a thermos of lemonade. Sweat drips over his eyes
               and he doesn’t watch a box turtle lift its orange-throated head

               off an exposed beech root. An indigo bunting babbles.
In the next field, twin rifles like off-beat drummers.
               Nothing moves. Even the water moccasins are lazy –   


Your mother says she and her mother will return to Ecuador.
               I imagine it’s just as foreign to her in Ossining,
as it’s to us in our un-oscillating Brooklyn heat, the Manhattan skyline
               on a day liberated of cumulus. If they strand you

               will I be able to comfort? Sometimes 
I think the German Idealists are right and the mind 
              is a marooned beast pacing from rose to oak.
Love, a periscope futilely pressing through an ice shelf.

I loved running around the communal cane press, 
              you told me. When we burned the bagasse, it was so unclean 
not even hornets that clung to spigots laden with drying juice endured. 
              I begged for a stalk to suck.
How strange to never see this.

Eric Janken

Eric Janken, originally from North Carolina, lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Pace University. He is a graduate of the Hunter College MFA Program and Appalachian State University. His work may be found in, among others, Crab Creek Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Shenandoah, & Tar River Poetry.