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I’ve Only Ever Been Here
It’s Tuesday. I’ve misplaced my shoes. There’s all this snow. Inside every magpie is a smaller magpie
that makes the rules. The magpie asks me where are my feet and I learn I’ve misplaced my feet
again. Walk on my hands to the dumpster at the base of the hill and crawl inside. I don’t find my
feet or my shoes or the wisdom that was promised me at birth. Instead, a map of Kentucky. 119 of
120 counties crossed out. The rivers and interstates remain. And that one county shaped like a
beating heart. What a small place. What a big question: have you lost your feet on any land but your
own? What work is that possessive language doing here? Tie your shoes. I found mine on the
mountain. If you flip any map upside down, it will hurt your feelings.
My uncle yells at me. I haven’t misbehaved, but I’ve scared him shitless. His anger, or what I
perceive as anger, hurts my feelings. The Japanese Maple cries harder than me. I swallow the crying
so it feels big and cold in my throat. The robins who belong to the maple say they’ll give me
something to cry about. My uncle remembers being Buddhist – how my mom and dad would sneak
into his room and flip his small statue upside down. He cries, now, because he misses believing he
was on a poltergeist’s shitlist. He cries because Kentucky is only the one county and he can’t stay. I
rub dirt on my face. He rubs dirt on my face. He says I can be messy but I can’t be careless. The
maple tree will break my arm, he says. The maple tree will break my arm, it says.
The tobacco fields move in every direction. They are all around. They could be on fire, they might
be, they smell like fire. Here it is only drought or flood. The tobacco field is hateful – it hurts my
feelings. My shoes are on the wrong feet and the laces are all knotted. Time for the harvest, the
highway says. Tear it all up. I don’t tear it up. I leave the fields. I haven’t got the right shoes. The
fields are on fire anyway. Tobacco is the county’s favorite fruit. The county is crossed out. The
highway is upside down. I walk backwards out of town.
Nik Moore is a poetry candidate in the MFA program at The University of Montana, where they teach college writing. Alongside reading and factotum duties for CutBank Literary Magazine, Nik is a founding editor of the indie journal Many Nice Donkeys. Though they're currently based in Missoula, Nik is a lifelong Kentuckian.