Erin Quinn

Sometimes I walk into  

a room that smells of

dust and things unloved,

carpets matted down

by muted voices and

things left unsaid,


pushing the screen door

open, past the stack

of old Reader’s Digests,

rubber boots thick with

mud. I breathe in


particles that fall from

a mantle or a clock or a

ceramic figurine with a chipped

nail and turquoise frock.


Beyond the rooms that hold

more rooms:  a staircase

slides down a hill. I run

towards the splintered


wood, any path

that will carry me

to water, always water–

its mold spores

and frothed edge.


I fall into that familiar

shock—that glass top,

cracked and porous—

the way only love can sweat.


Everything shivers in that

ecstatic way that skin replies

to icy water like a Morse code

of what it means to be exposed.


There is a scratchy

towel frayed near the iron-

on decal that advertises a beer

no one here drinks.


We’ve been here

so many times. It feels as

old as a hymnal and yet

I’m never sure what rock

to claim as mine.


Maybe stake claim to the tree fort,

mushrooms clinging

to the base of its wood

as if all of life

begins by looking upwards.


I want to lie down on

this pale, cratered

rock and say that I

have finally



My flag in the ground,

an ear pressed to the sound

of a small heartbeat inside

the cool, wormy bark…


Maybe I have found

the right rock,

and this, this…

water’s warm skin

is as close to God

and the marrow of light,

that I can get.




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Shawangunk Review Volume XXXII Copyright © 2021 by Erin Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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