Natalie Mau (she/ her) is a graduate poetry student in Georgia College & State University's Master of the Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, where she also serves as the assistant poetry editor for Arts & Letters literary journal. Her work can be found in journals such as Denver Quarterly, Buton Eye Review, and Drunk Monkeys.
In the Moments I'm Alone
i search for god but come up empty. my cup cannot be filled. the house cannot stay warm; cracks decorate the windows’ corners. a stinkbug waddles across the wall-- small, unwelcome jester. the cat watches, tail flicking like a flame, but does not move. i search for god between the couch cushions but find only a quarter, some sand, the torn edge of a letter i wrote her-- unreadable, but still true. the stinkbug perches on the mantel. the cat sizes up the jump, decides against it. i decide god is not here today. they must be hiding in a bowl of cherries that sits, untouched, on someone else’s kitchen counter. the stinkbug lifts one little leg, takes flight. the cat and i watch-- tracing the air, trying to make out the shape absence takes as the bug disappears behind her favorite chair.
I am digging a trench at the base of a Chilean Mesquite tree with my wife’s ex-boyfriend’s dad, John, scanning the hard, orange earth for fire ants, when I feel something that feels like joy. Maybe it’s the heat or the time difference or the state of the world, but I am clawing into the scorched earth with a dented spade and welding gloves while my wife drinks her third mimosa of the day with the rest of the wedding party and cries about God knows what in a Pepto-Bismol pink bridesmaid’s dress with her ex-boyfriend behind a locked bedroom door and I feel good. John tells me about the tree; the bark is dark red and waxy, always anticipating fire. The roots are shallow, so I must be careful about where I am digging. I dig and scrape and let dust coat my forearms because the winds from earlier in the afternoon have died down and now it’s just me and the sun. I don’t mind the burn; I’ve never minded pain as long as it’s honest. I focus on my gloved hands, how good they feel in the dirt; my fingers trace the scar I am cutting across the yard as John strings lights in the tree’s canopy. John says the neighbors lost a tree recently because of too much rain. Losing a tree out here, he says, is devastating. Shade is a luxury. I tell him that the trees back home can’t ever get enough to drink. He tells me there can be too much of a good thing.