The Troop Leader’s Daughter

Our sticks held just above the quiet flame,
marshmallows turn from white to golden brown.
I sit around the camp fire with the boys
who talk of guts, and how, while hiking through
the woods they found a pigeon’s body torn
to pieces in the brush. I plunge my stick
into the pit, marshmallow turns to coal.
The boys burst into laughter, hush their talk
of blood.

If you were lost, what would you do?

my father asks the troop. They talk of earth,
of footprints, broken twigs and skies like maps.
I clutch my precious lucky rabbit’s foot,
dyed red and soft against my sweaty palms.

Which one’s the North Star, kid?

He asks, his eyes
on me. I shrug and mumble,

Dunno, point
my finger to the milky sky at one
of countless specks. A boy scout grabs my arm
and leads my finger toward the Dipper’s tail.

Right there,

he whispers in my ear, his warm
breath tickling my neck. A June bug lands
atop my knee, drunk on our light
I shriek, the scout lets go my arm and lifts
the clumsy bug with pinching fingertips.
He hurls it to the flame. I watch it burn.

Girl, how will you find your way back home?

Originally published in Juventud! (VAO Publishing, 2013)

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Katie Hoerth

Katherine Hoerth is the author of four poetry books. Her most recent, Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots (Lamar University Literary Press, 2014) won the Helen C. Smith Prize from the Texas Institute of Letters for the best book of poetry. Her work has been published in journals including Texas Poetry Calendar, Concho River Review, and Mezzo Cammin: A Journal of Formal Poetry by Women. She teaches writing at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and serves as poetry editor of Amarillo Bay and Devilfish Review. Katherine lives in Edinburg.

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