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Texas girl visits Idaho but never learned how to tell... -- poetry by Ruth Anne Patterson

"Texas girl visits Idaho but never learned how to tell the difference between angels and local wildlife"


Out back of my aunt and uncle’s house up north

there’s this badger from even further up north,

real big thing with dusty fur,

yellow teeth from age and wear.


He comes out onto the back porch

at night when I sit in the flower beds.

Marigolds never grow here, but I

plant them every year anyway and pray they do.


The badger asks me questions.

Tells me things he shouldn’t.

Lacy’s dog died last week, or the river is higher than usual,

all punctuated by shifting and pulsing.


St. Antony said love casts out fear,

but what if it inspires fear instead?

How long do I have to wander in the desert

to figure that one out?


If I look at that badger from the corner of my eye

I’m afraid he’ll be something else. Something

bigger, meaner. Something I’d pull a knife on

if I saw it in the forest.


The kid you pressed roses for in school is

on a plane to Portland right now.

Nice girl, wants to be a chemist.

He leaves when I don’t say anything.

I’m not ready.


Half a life wasted between a dead oak tree

and a coyote corpse, and all you have to

show for it is a hole where your faith should be

and a Southern sunburn.


I’m ready.

Sometimes I say things the badger can’t.

Don’t take it all personal, but by the way:

I can’t go into the forest by myself anymore

because everyone thinks I’ll do something stupid.


I resent that, but you’re allowed to resent what’s right.

Aren’t you, St. Antony?

Did you ever wonder if you really believed,

in the desert with all those lost kids and wild lions?


Badger tells me I shouldn’t be so angry with

people that don’t mean any harm.

I flash my fists and dare him

to get closer, find out.


He leaves in a trail of glimmer. I choke looking at it.

St. Antony, did you ever feel guilty for loving God

the best out of all your brothers?

Like you got drafted for a battle you didn’t even know about?


Because I have to know, is it really so wrong to resent people

for thinking you’re safe and trustworthy? Because there was

this fourth-century monk in Scete,

great big desert in Egypt, no room for life,


and he let thieves steal from him.

He wanted to believe they needed it all

so he helped them take things out

of his cell and prayed for the thieves when they were gone.


But I can’t be like him, St. Antony,

I can’t. I kneel to pray but I get down there

and realize I don’t know how to pray

for no one but myself.


I need everyone to know I’m the one making

me cry, too. It’s not just you.

So get away. Plant a marigold, instead.

Eat it when it grows.




Ruth Anne Patterson is a high school student from Texas. In her spare time, Ruth Anne enjoys studying ancient cultures, being captain of her school’s debate team, and using language to make the world a little better.

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