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Poetry by Candace Hartsuyker


Close Enough to Smell a Bear

Look closely at the photo of the pop-up trailer
expanding like an accordion.
7 days without a Hershey’s chocolate bar
melting in the sun,
smelling like tinfoil, cocoa and hot dimes.
The bear-proof food locker
with a pink wad of watermelon bubble gum
and your brother’s leftover sandwich crust on top.
At dusk, the smell of damp earth,
popcorn and your brother’s unwashed oily hair.
The hot breath like the burn of a heater.
Was it a bear?
Fear curling like a rope,
the door shuts.
A rocking motion,
a coffin locking you in.
Later, hiking in the woods,
the odor of dead fish and fir trees,
a salmon, its eyeballs plucked,
insides discarded: an empty paper bag.



My mother says,
when your brother was born,
he was slow moving sloth,
cocooned like a larva.
His mouth opened only to eat.

When I am six years old,
I bite my brother’s shoulder,
break through the skin.

I am mad at him about something.
Standing in the kitchen, my head hangs low.
My mother tells me that because I am older,
it is my job to take care of my brother.

I pretend to hear her,
but her words mean nothing to me.

I only begin to listen thirteen years later
when my father sits down with me,
says that he worries about my brother,
but he’s never worried about me.

I think about how my brother is fragile,
like a butterfly, and how
butterflies aren’t meant to last,
an average lifespan between one and six weeks.



Candace Hartsuyker is a first-year fiction student in McNeese State University’s MFA Program. She has been published in Foliate Oak, Foxglove Journal, The Ginger Collect, Former Cactus and Anti-Heroin Chic.

Be sure to check out our exclusive interview with Candace over on the Orson's Publishing blog.