Conceived late winter, the lowlands of Alaska.
Our mother, & Dale his father,
tended to the cabin of an elder couple.
The neighboring river
overflowed with ice, the current
flooded fresh territory & encroached
on their seasonal home.
In desperation they pawned their possession,
moved north to Manley Hot Springs.
By day they gutted King Salmon in a factory; by night
they witnessed the Aura Borealis
grace the earth, weave through pines,
& brush along our mother’s budding stomach.
One afternoon Dale & a friend
went to the docks to fish.
The drifter—ex-military/a mute—
was there too: pillaging boats, demanding life,
tossing victims in the river.
Police chased him down
in two helicopters. A firefight:
nine bodies floated to the ocean,
their flesh converted to steam. Three years
my brother bathed in an iron bucket,
slept between lamb’s wool
& deer hide. His birthmark grew
around his ribs; it smeared
like blood, like the Northern Lights
diffused through pine needle,
snowfall, & melting ice.
Justin Groppuso-Cook is a Writer-in-Residence for InsideOut Literary Arts Project. His poems have appeared in Duende, Foliate Oak, Polaris, The Blue Route, Collision, Mangrove Journal, & Susquehanna Review. When not writing poetry, he performs with his band, Asklepius, purifying the consciousness of humankind. He lives in Detroit, Michigan.