Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

“Heaven Hill”

Book Excerpt: Mustard, Milk, and Gin

Heaven Hill

What is the sound of a child remembering herself? Dry-salt
of my past, retrieval of my edges: am I finally at the top

of a long gravel driveway? Is my father out again
with his articulate shovel and dump-truck? My mother:

fixing the brown box mashed potatoes. Me in plaids,
florals, prints. There are cows across the street.

I stand beneath a cumulus cloud—feeling no joy,
no deliverance. I stare ahead, a chilly blonde speck

with pointy elbows and milk teeth. Did I know then that
my parents dragged their warm bellies over the earth to feed me?

Did I know that my father buried a bottle of whiskey
in the backyard? My mother: an iris bulb in the freezer.

I’m not them I tell myself. I’m not them. The silver bodies
of our sprinklers emerge and contort. They scream

from every blowhole. See, this is the sound of my father
returning from the fields, barreling his dump-truck down

that gravel driveway—a stunt, like Jesus swinging his hips.
Producing a penny from behind my ear.

“Heaven Hill”

Reprinted from Mustard, Milk, and Gin. Copyright © 2020 by Megan Denton Ray. Used with permission of the publisher, Hub City Press. All rights reserved. Megan Denton Ray received her M.F.A. from Purdue University, where she was awarded an Academy of American Poets prize. Her debut collection, Mustard, Milk, and Gin, is the winner of the 2019 New Southern Voices Poetry Prize. She currently lives and teaches in Chattanooga.