"Rio Vista," "We Fall," and "Our Cicada Bugs"

Rio Vista

my first memory was rain,

movement, drifter feet plying


the roofline in sheets;


nothing was separate:

the T-frame wires through

the spread of distance,


the dance of clothespins

and the grease trap

that once ate a girl.


the rain—its lapping

could fill our farm's well in reverse

until it rose over and the dead debris,

the black

cicadas would not sleep,


not easily, not


with the screen door frantic,

the electric porch a pool of

arching spines, the wind spinning

outside counter-clockwise.


my second memory was grief,

stillness, my church shoes


in mud from the cloudburst;


that last April at home:

the silo folded in and where

the boards should've been


there was an empty cavern.

the secret got loose through the windmill

as it mourned its vacancy.


the grief—its apparition

stayed in wait after the burial

until the house sold what was left of the girl,

the white

pillars by the door would not stand,


not easily, not


with the foundation of peat moss caving,

the stylus of memory scoring my vinyl skins,

the wolf spiders slipping beneath the damp overlay

and under my rug of incomplete feelings.



We Fall

Like dead skin paper clips,

change is a revolving door of rigid bends,

mangled extremities, and severed appendages.


We hang our raspberry stained skins,

clothespin them to our eyelids—

flag of red, brown, bullet-riddled pride,


and it is a post of infamy.

Our nuclear families

smile like Stepford,


the conveyor belt is the creak of 

claims to be less of what it really is, was—


Everywhere is worship.

Everywhere is a side, a right in defense,

a child understanding the unhealed land, and

the blank faced stare of justified murdering—

the compliance, the bow of fear,


the killing


the killing in the name of freedom.

the killing in the name of man's law.

the killing in the name of God.



Our Cicada Bugs

Overnight the ground became

Swiss cheese;

you overlooked the subtlety,

first noticed their singing


and looked up into our backyard's

vibrating trees.

Your worried brow asked me

about the sudden buzzing.


I said—cicadas.

You shuffled closer from the sound,

my hissing consonants.


Nice bugs—I said and you were less tense.

You asked me to make them stop.

Your always insisting on this,

my harnessed control, my limits

on a whim,


looking for the idea in the leaves,

the bugs that shed effigies

and blend effervescent green.


You thought I was God though you

had not formed the word.

I tried to show you God in everything,

in disappointment, in fear

of mystery, in sensation and movement,

each process.


I told you—they tunnel through night

like dormant sleepwalkers to crawl up

their mothers' spines

after seventeen years of drinking

the gold sap.


We stuck our knuckles into the holes,

dug to see

how deep down they'd go

as the cicadas' cries began to wane.


We stood in the trough of their calls as

they came in waves for you,

the one who hasn’t forgotten

how to listen.

You who taught me how to listen.



Kaci Skiles Laws

Kaci Skiles Laws is a writer and artist living in Dallas—Fort Worth. Her work has been featured in The Letters Page, at Bewildering Stories, 50 Haikus, Former People, and is upcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, The Bollman Bridge Review, and Sub Rosa Zine. She won an award for her poem, This is How it Ends, by NCTC's English Department and is currently working on a children's book called The Boogerman. Some of her and her husband's visual artwork can be viewed on their YouTube channel listed under Kaci and Bryant. Kaci recommends Together Rising.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Tuesday, September 24, 2019 - 22:23