Not, in fact, a river wedged
through Africa, but instead a hamlet
in Northwest Ohio. The mayor speaks
German, as does the teacher, and the priest
and the children, and even the Moroccan
who moved in the previous year. Alleyways
do not exist in Denial: you’re either a street
or a home. If you want to buy
some weed or rendezvous with a neighbor’s
wife, or mug a man with a knife
pointed like a thumb, you’ll have to drive
forty minutes north until you hit Toledo.

Citizens of Denial harbor their ancestors
arrival dates into the Country in safes,
in the same envelopes as their social
security cards. No one can be traced
back before 1870—this fact makes excellent
fuel. The citizens, after all, sternly believe
in the necessity of alternative energy.

The town’s slogan is “abdicate.”

And while Denial may not be a river
in Egypt, it does have a creek slumbering
away in its backyard. It is shallow
and the color of peeled-away
rust. Melissa Haas smothered
her newborn son in that creek
eight years ago. She let him float
downstream and called him wayward
sailor, a phrase she had no business
knowing. Her son emigrated

out of town for the next three days.
He started a new life in Carlisle,
adopting a name as plain as oats.

Joshua Zimmerer is a PhD Candidate at the University of North Texas. Previous publications are in (614) Magazine, Mikrokosmos Literary Journal, and Fjords Review. He has not, as of yet, been to Mars.

What etymologies do you carry with you? Tell us in the comments.

Image Credit: Flickr

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