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Lisa Rhoades grew up in the Midwest and moved to New York City in 1987. Her second full-length collection, The Long Grass, is forthcoming from Saint Julian Press (Houston) in February 2020. She holds an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and is the author of Strange Gravity, selected by Elaine Terranova for the Bright Hill Press Poetry Award Series and published in 2004. A chapbook, Into Grace, was published by Riverstone Press in 2003. In addition to teaching in a variety of venues, she works as a pediatric nurse in a private office in Manhattan. She lives on Staten Island with her spouse and their two children. Follow her at lisarhoades.com.
The Mark, 1931
Lisa Rhoades

As a child she couldn’t find it—the mark 
she knew was there, somewhere.
She’d crane her neck to peer
at the trellis and gate post and above 
the dark slash of canker growing
part way up the tree. Each day 
she examined each deeply
for the smallest charcoal smudge,
she searched for drag marks through the gravel 
in the alley behind their yard.

Once she found two stacked twigs 
and read it as a sign
pointing to the porch door vined in roses.
How else did they know to come
to her house 
hat slapped into their palm,
asking for odd jobs, these
able-bodied men trying to trade 
work for food, day upon day?
Her mother would send her
from the kitchen with butter on bread, 
a baked potato, or piece of meat, 
maybe cheese,
wrapped in waxed paper,
not much but no one had much, 
for her to hand to a man just like her dad, 
a railroad engineer by trade,
who in a nearby office 
(she later knew) was letting 
his employees go
one by one.