My Life Is Like This

by John Mark Ballenger

Each night I keep trying to say something
specific before sleep, something about time
or the horizon. How time unwinds
like a copperhead or the fear
of a copperhead or the spaces between
hay bales, under porch steps.
I try to say something
about the ash of memory, a farmhouse
firm in my mind and burned to the ground
of my childhood, standing and consumed
every moment.
About the distance light
travels from the glacier-crumpled
Southern Ohio hills to the shadowed
valley bottoms. The horizon
that weighs down the eye, reduces the world
to a hollow, a creek, a hardwood canopy,
ivy overcoming ancient leaning barns,
a half-sunk Ford Pinto and the speckled blue
of a robin’s egg in the grass. I want to say
something of men talking under a great
sugar maple in the late summer dark, a mud dauber
tapping against a window, my mother speaking
her mother’s name.
In my dream the words are exactly
the thing itself: time, horizon, copperhead, dark, robin’s
egg in grass, my mother, at last, a revelation.

John Mark Ballenger lives in Mount Vernon, OH, with his wife and two children. He received an MFA in creative writing from Ashland University in 2012.
Ballenger grew up in rural southern Ohio, and the landscapes and lives and
voices of northern Appalachia are the primary forces which have shaped his
imagination and writing.

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