Foul Rift

That day, we drove a different road home

after crossing the Belvedere bridge,


winding down the river past a small farm

where a sign sold fresh brown eggs


then across a plank road over a marshy culvert

near a pull-off where swimmers


were loading their pickup with truck tubes

they’d dragged onto the sandy shore,


and around the next bend, just before

the Foul Rift railroad crossing,


a house on the left with a silhouette

of that holy family staked in the lawn,


a Christmas tree still burning in a window.

We were in the middle of a July heat wave,


brownouts countywide and preplanned

disruptions of power daily, hoping for


a squall to roll down from the Kittatinies

to water the garden and cool the air.


We had a tree that size we put up a week

before our daughter’s fatal.


Whatever month it was when we finally

took down that balsam it was a bigger


chore than we expected, packing away

the delicate glass ornaments, undoing


the twisted strings of mini lights,

and crinkled strands of silver tinsel.


After I kicked a wedge under the back door

we dragged that blasted fir outside,


tossed it into the woods, out of sight,

left a trail of desiccated needles trapped


in the nap of the carpet that years later,

turn up, prick our soles.



John Bargowski’s new book is American Chestnut (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2022). His first book Driving West on the Pulaski Skyway, selected by Paul Mariani for the Bordighera Prize, appeared in 2012. His poems also appear on Poetry Daily and in the Gettysburg Review, New Ohio Review, Southern Poetry Review, Paterson Literary Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry, and Ploughshares, among others.