Whatever We Never Planned

From North Alabama’s Rachel Nix come three poems about the names we carry, the waters we cross, and letting time do its thing.


Think of the river: savior & sometimes taker.
I only want to wade, to drink, & maybe swim.

Now, remember: you are not the river; my lungs
have never stolen air from anyone else. I invite

you to take a dip, dive in, cool your tired bones
in the water. This river’s seen it all—drowned

bad ideas & good people, brought sustenance
& devoured the things we don’t hold tightly.

Realize this: your rhetoric claims a godly grip.
Neighbor, this is not at all what holding means.

My breath stills within your strangling stare—
a look, a learned thing, taught & retained by

those in pews who fear & refuse that which is
not clear. Put your foot in the river, watch how

mud murks when each step grows. See what you
perceived as truth never had much kin to clarity.

Observe the river; remember it & its history.
Water finds new routes, carries itself on with

or without your forgiveness, ready for all that
arrives next in a world not predicted by parables.

Come, neighbor—take witness to life, to my love
& me, praise the water that never learned to judge

me nor the woman I wake to hold.


I try on last names
as often as I look at routes,
places to run off,
maybe to settle—

not for love nor loneliness,
but to escape connotation.

I’d make one up, a name
that doesn’t shame me.

Maybe I’ll take a name
from generations back,
on my mother’s side—

anything to oppose
what I’d have never
chosen for myself.

Then I remember the advice
of my grandmother, the woman
my first name honors:

Sweetie, you can rebuild that name,
make it mightier
than what your father did to it.


The sky held my grandmother’s grey-eyed stare.
She spent her days watching, as if the sun
might not remain without her patience.

Mindful of the hours, she’d keep to her porch
until the light would take leave—rising again
early enough at least at times to beat her

to their azaleas before her morning might emerge.
Sleep, the only worthy diversion, saw her
close her eyes as rarely as the sun.

She believed in rest but knew from all her years,
sleep is a thing to be cornered. It takes too long
to find dreams or even plan for the night.

Never one to wait for time to tell her to do anything,
she’d tell me to sit with her, to watch the sun
be the sun. What stayed with us, the sky and me,

when she could not: That which cannot be done today
can wait for tomorrow. If tomorrow doesn’t come,
to hell with whatever we never planned.

Author Profile

Rachel Nix is an editor for Screen Door Review. Her work has appeared in such journals as Pidgeonholes, Sundog Lit, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and The West Review, among others. She lives in Northwest Alabama, where pine trees outnumber people rather nicely.

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