Land Dwellers

By Ashley Crout
When you are inhabited by a geography, its waters – 
the animal scent of the marsh, the brine-soak 
of the ocean – rise into your mouth. You swallow. 

You are never not swallowing. Its land hums under 
your feet. You cannot place the song. Its land loosens 
into silt. The rust red dust sinks, is sinking, until it settles 

on the flat of your diaphragm. To breathe, you have to 
lift entire cities as if holding an offering up to God, excavate 
your body from the roots of the family that named you.

You never had their thick drawl in your mouth, how it 
stretches every word backwards into a story that glories 
the past. Your mother and your mother’s mother could 

have been someone, but they only sat watching the world.
Slatted rocking chairs cast them forward then back 
then back. The slowed sound of their language lingers, 

like the crushed lavender scent at their necks, long 
after it means whatever it meant. Your chest is resonant 
with human voice. You are both the house and the one 

locked out, your flushed face cooling against the windows. 
One day you will run. One day you will run back 
for the same reasons that you left. You are populated 

both with those whose sins are unforgivable and those 
who prophet a God to them. Every one of them, every last 
one of them, is yours. Every goddamn one of them is you.

About the author

Ashley Crout was born in Charleston, SC, and graduated from Bard College and the MFA program at Hunter College. She is the recipient of a poetry grant from The Astraea Foundation and has received awards from The Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Foundation. Her work has been published in Sojourner, Ponder Review, Atticus Review and Dodging the Rain, among others. She lives in Greenville, SC, with her hound, Stella.

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