Game-Sett

by Meghan Purvis

You found her den, you said, running in the woods with friends.

You were twelve, young enough to spring through fir branches battering

the bone-knuckles of your spine, and this witch-pit in the dark

stopped you: the furrows of its mouth, the black leather shoe

sitting inside the flashlight’s swell. We told ghost stories that weekend

and she was yours, between gimlets and word games—

mime a badger. Now mime a bone–and I went to bed late

and I woke up early, to keep the bedroom I was sleeping in a secret.

I knew her too. She lives on the edges of lives, and so the ocean

between our childhoods didn’t matter. She was in the brush by my school

you didn’t go through after dark. She pushed a squeaking shopping cart

and the pilot’s cap of her grey hair cupped her swollen head,

and I knew her when you told us about the burrow, when you said

her not-name, and she knew me. I woke with her kneecap

printing a pajama-button bruise into the runway of my ribcage

and you sleeping open-mouthed beside me, unaware, and her voice

in my ear in the dark: I’ll be having my other shoe back,

I know you’ve got it somewhere. He took my good boot

and you bear the print of it, ducky, next to your spine.

I know those treads. That last morning I was up first to make coffee

and I left a knot of my hair tied seven times on the stone floor

that wouldn’t take my footprints. There is duck, and there is duck,

and there is the goose from the four-legged hut who knows you

and the words you missed. Does it get to you? It gets to me, too.


Meghan Purvis received an MA and PhD from the University of East Anglia, and an MFA from North Carolina State University. Her translation of Beowulf was published in 2013 and won the 2011 Times Stephen Spender Prize for literary translation. Her poetry has appeared, among other places, in Magma, The Rialto, and The Interpreter’s House. She is currently working on her first novel.