Illustration: bubbles rising with one red leaf


You called when I was in Atlanta,
but I couldn’t answer

I was at a conference and busy, yes,
but also to have heard your voice

would have taken strength I needed
to drive long hours back North

so instead I stop at our sacred places,
impromptu pilgrimage

to Etowah Mounds—
climbing highest mound to pray—

then on to New Echota
proud capital where The Trail of Tears started

These are the calls we have to answer,
the ones from home to heart,

the ones that go deeper
even than words

Skipping tourist shop,
I reach for one red leaf

from this place of strength and grief,
offering thanks.

My tears are for self,
but also from deeper source

As I merge back on the highway
it starts to rain and I greet it

with a word you taught me
that I did not know I remembered,

but that re-members me:

Kimberly L. Becker is the author of four poetry collections: Words Facing East; The Dividings (WordTech), Flight (forthcoming, MadHat Press), and The Bed Book (forthcoming, Spuyten Duyvil). Her poems appear widely in journals and anthologies, including IDK Magazine, Panoply, Storm Cellar, and Tending the Fire: Native Voices and Portraits. She has held grants from MD, NC, and NJ and residencies at Hambidge, Weymouth, and Wildacres. Kimberly has read at venues such as The National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC and Wordfest and served as mentor for PEN America’s Prison Writing and AWP’s Writer to Writer programs.

River illustration by C.B. Auder.

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