She dreams of comfrey and burdock,
feels through skin and spasmed muscles,
waits for marrow to hit the heart.
Pulls the stalks that serve for splints,
boils the tea that lays down bone,
mixes in ground egg- and oyster-shells.
They come for her father,
but after the crack, the scream,
he leaves the mending to her.
They give him a chicken, a hare,
or a passed-down brooch,
their gratitude mixed with suspicion.
To her he leaves the slow accretion
of the months, the strength
of calluses, the ache of rain.
Jan Steckel’s poetry book, The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011), won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award. Her fiction chapbook, Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009), and poetry chapbook, The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006), also won awards. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Yale Medicine, Bellevue Literary Review, Canary, Assaracus, and elsewhere. She won the Jewel by the Bay poetry competition and Triplopia’s Best of the Best Competition. She lives in Oakland, California.