Devon Walker-Figueroa


Gray Diggers

The first letter I ever wrote
was addressed to GOD WITH US & I
put my location down as being
Philomath, because it’s the closest
you get to civilization out here, as in, you
can get your weekly fill
of diesel there, fix your dog, stock up
on bullets & Maker’s & live
bate. I dropped the finished
missive into Onion Creek which runs
behind our house, a house
that belonged to horses
before it belonged to a devil-
worshipping woman who plowed
her Ford into the family
room window, or so my father says
if talk is slow & you ask him why
the floors don’t touch
the walls the way they should. We put up
with all our gap invites
in from the rain, which is mostly Gray
Diggers—that breed of squirrels
who squeeze into your walls
& die there in protest to your appetite
for their kind. Rick, our hand,
as he calls himself, has started pissing
in the orchard on the pioneer
plum because he can’t breathe
right in the house, with the cats & the rabbit
& its unlucky cousin still
stuck in the wall, & this
from a man who smokes a Marlboro Red
every hour of his life. I’m grateful for
the company, the mindless knock-
knock jokes, the smell of his leather jacket
in the closet. He has a way of being
the loneliest person you’ve ever met, besides
yourself, except when he’s holding
his Maverick & teaching you how
to aim for the hay man’s heart,
the one who wears the blue
button-up he forgot you
bought him for his birthday. One day,
he’ll give me his hand-
gun, or so he promises, but I’m not
in a hurry. (My father leaves
the revolver he likes
least under my bed, behind what’s left
of Monopoly & Sorry & a jigsaw
of bungalows whose bay windows glow
like the suitcase in Kiss Me
Deadly.) The first letter I ever wrote
I wrote because I was told to pray
without opening my trap. I did it
in cursive, because every letter is more
beautiful when touching
the others that make it mean. “I’m sorry,”
I said, to a fraction of God & the dust-
less husk of a moth I’d held
too long. I’ve never held a Digger in
my hands, though they make themselves
at home & known, & Rick
has promised to open up
the walls if it comes down
to it. He says he’s tempted to open
fire on the bathroom wall
just to get the message
across. He wants to reach
inside the failing plaster, pull the ring-
leader into the light, make her
forget why she’s raising Cain & a family
in a house that isn’t hers.



(Our Burning Is a Glow We Can’t Perceive)

As if the light were archiving
our physiognomies, setting them

aside for some after-
noon in which we’ll no longer be said

to have features at all—no more
cuneiform cheeks, no hands

whose skin has always been pursuing
translucence, no tender hallway

of throat; and the light will say,
with urgency, it was easy

to be sinless before I was alive.



Devon Walker-Figueroa lives in Iowa City, where she serves as the poetry editor for The Iowa Review and as co-founding editor of Horsethief Books. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry ReviewThe New England Review, Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly, and Tin House Online, among other places. She is a current MFA student in The Iowa Writers’ Workshop. 

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