Two Poems by Rachel Custer

In Kozy Valley Estates

a trailer capsizes. Two women almost die. Somebody’s mother is convinced a derecho is a conspiracy: I never heard o’ that before. It was a tornado or it wasn’t. The difference between one kind of wind and another kind of wind: belief. Between an almost-dead poor woman and a silence: one can be easily borne. After the wind, you’re alone. Staring for five minutes at a tree. Call a thing an estate and you can pretend it’s livable, can charge an extra hundred bucks for rent. A Bible hangs over a pine tree’s stripped branch. It was a tornado or it wasn’t. They were lovers or they weren’t. Is or isn’t: that’s how the truth goes. Death makes some people care about the truth. Those women were good people, good friends, good workers, they would have given you the shirts off their backs if you asked. Death makes other people lie. Call a real thing love and a lie can’t touch it. Call it love and make of truth an estate.


Deanna Reads The Velveteen Rabbit

and cries. Big, gulping cries until she can hardly speak. She’s not a woman to cry at just anything. Deanna wants a love to make her real. On her lap, her children giggle at her tears. They haven’t grown old enough to be made afraid. Once, after love, she found herself threadbare, pretending again to be new. She sees now it wasn’t fair. Her children paw at her like little cats. It’s like the book was put there just for her. Once, when she was small enough to hold, she felt that way about her mother’s lap. She hadn’t grown old enough to be unmade. A soft little rabbit whispering in the night. A wise old rocking horse. Seven children slept in the same bed with her (this was when they still had a bed). Deanna finds herself unstitched by time. Here is what a book can do: untether you. Tether you again to what is real. Her in the doorway, small enough to carry on a hip. Her tattered mother, thumbing a ride away.


Rachel Custer the author of Flatback Sally Country (Terrapin Books) and The Temple She Became (Five Oaks Press, 2017). She was a 2019 NEA fellow. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in many journals, including Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, OSU: The Journal, B O D Y, One Art, and The American Journal of Poetry, among others. She currently resides online at