The 2River View 27.2 (Winter 2023)

Rachel Custer

Sally Teaches Mercy Best She Knows

Mercy was a lonely road
between two silent fields

dead-ending in a town of growing glares.

She grew like a smile
salting a thousand sneers

She grew like a silence
calling a woman to song.

Sally lost and found another man.

Plenty forgot their names,
if plenty had known

their names, that crumbling cabin
they kept at the edge of need.

More than once, Sally found Mercy
on her knees beside the bed,

begging the good Lord for one good man.
Mercy, said Sally, you get the love you deserve.

Seeing Too Much Is Seeing Nothing

Sally stands at the sink, training
her eyes on the following day

and missing
the girl following her around.

Sally’s saving all her faith for silences,
these days. Summer

mornings in Indiana
are a lie that’ll catch you out later.

An unanswered question,
a shame that’ll soak your clothes.

What happened to Mercy? a truth
you don’t know how to say

is the same as a truth you don’t know.
One more little girl

who couldn’t be saved. Mercy
split the county-line crick

and walked through on dry ground.
Sally swore she never saw the day.

Rachel Custer is an NEA fellow (2019) and the author of Flatback Sally Country (Terrapin Books, forthcoming) and The Temple She Became (Five Oaks Press, 2017). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Antigonish Review, B O D Y, and Rattle. website

<< Mary Lou Buschi
Peter Grandbois
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