Anna Meister is an MFA candidate in Poetry at NYU. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in journals including Sugar House Review, Bodega, Wicked Banshee Press, & Radar Poetry, where she was a finalist for the 2014 Coniston Prize. Anna lives & works in Brooklyn. 

an especially hot July



an especially hot July

an especially hot July

an especially hot July       


afternoon he calls me, screams
fuck, screams get here
because the animal hasn’t moved 
all day, because the flies are starting 
to gather 

I run the long block 
of lawn sprinklers spitting 
& find him, knees in the grass 
next to the neighbor’s dog 
(the one he was 

watching) with its body half 
under the porch, tar-
black backside baking 
in the sun


he weeps as if cracked open 
seam broken 

the dog’s stillness 
the flies’ dizzying dance 

who do we call? he asks 
& am I going to hell for this? 

I killed a dog

       he kicks 
the (empty) water bowl

I touch his head & can’t 
think of a single thing to say 

together we dig 
a hole, shovel 
like a loose tooth, body 
rolled down into dark 
& cool dirt 

a disappearance
then, earth as blanket 
how we jump 
to settle soil
soaked with sweat

our I’m sorry chorus
funeral song turned 





-At the fish fry, they call me Brotha John, call me Honorary,
say I must be darker on the inside and laugh ‘cause I get filled
with the Holy Spirit, full body shake and spit-           



      born the youngest

boy of many brothers

      raised with many beatings

       & his daddy gone

      with the bottle or the road

       & no I love you-s

       this we know



what I remember from 
when I was still blond:     

     his killer jump shot & chest hair
like soft hay, his sweat & fire    
     scented leather jacket, the pickup
truck he let me steer     
     into the raspberry brambles,
Saturday morning biscuits & gravy.



-Can’t hate my father for the way his knuckles flew twenty, thirty years ago, ‘cause the good Lord says Forgive. Now, just a man I buy toothpaste and bar soap for, a chocolate long john at the bakery counter. Silent, we sit ‘til there are only crumbs-




the day

                      my grandfather was buried

behind the frozen cornfield

   wayne handed dad the shovel & said

you have to dig the hole

   i remember his mud covered suit

& cheeks quickly drying in the winter air

  i remember him


 but now that same face

all wet & burning

            now his grip under the icicles 

his clean wail

    a pitch never before heard

god i’m sorry

  i’m so sorry god

            but he is speaking to me    



-father, Father-          



            I wrote the elegy for his ponytail.



I press everything down hard:
the gearshift gliding on I-35
to Kansas City where I do
the Lord’s work, the blue pen
to her birthday card (how old today?)
where I write You are always
in my prayers
, but how do I say
The Lord has blessed me with you
(just as true) and how do I say 
We have so much in common,
Anna, not just our chins?     




            After all of the dreams, the baseball cards   
            became Bibles. Our grocery money instead   
            bought pressed new suits for services   
            at the Missionary Baptist church. In the office,   
            I found him talking to no one with his head   
            up & open like a music box. He left a list   
            of priorities on the kitchen table & I’m sure   
            I wasn’t supposed to see, but there was   
            God above Mom & my brother above me.



-Not an alcoholic, but I’ve gotten behind the wheel, seen double,
and driven the thing on home, so what I’m saying is I coulda been, man, 
I really coulda been somewhere different if not for Him-    



            cut all hair & heard   
            this better not mean what I think   

            whispered from behind   
            while the water boiled  

            spit & fingernails, shouting that moved   
            stomach to throat & eyes cinched tight

            so damn emotional  
            just like your mother  

            the clank a metal colander makes  
            when thrown at the refrigerator  

            how hands did not raise to meet  
            face, but stayed folded in prayer  

            (would've preferred the smack) 



-Sings so sweet, but won’t sing for me anymore. Calls me crazy just ‘cause I won’t buy a used car from a man who don’t have a favorite scripture or two, don’t know Jesus as his savior, saving grace-



Bad girl 

meaning daughter 

meaning church-goer


your ass in the pew

with the hymn book     open

All eyes on your wrinkled dress  

    & the organ heaves  

Father, I Stretch My Hands To Thee



-Always asking me about sand and basketball and, truth is, 
I don’t remember much. You know, there’s value in forgetting 
everything I said before I said Amen-