Issue 4:1 I Poetry I Alan Brasher
Still We Hear Them
I follow my father into darkness,
past the small plot where his parents
and grandparents lie fenced
away from cows and goats;
along a ridge we come to my uncle—
hands cupped forward over his ears—
listening to darkness and woods.
He tells us where the dogs are—
the Poe place—three miles by road, four
hollers on foot. As they cross the creek,
coming back into hearing, the strike
dog’s bellow sheds light on their progress;
he hollers, more than barks, at neither
the fox he chases nor the dogs that follow.
We imagine their frantic pursuit,
crashing through briars, splashing
through springs—sometimes diverted
by deer or coyote. The dogs trace scent
trails—tracks hanging in dead air,
caressing fallen limbs and leaves; they hunt
beyond our seeing, but still we hear them.
for Marvin Baker
When they come to see you, driving seventeen hours,
does it feel like your absent grandchildren come home,
your progeny having skipped a generation, moved directly to
these three past the children you never had?
Having withdrawn to the cool seclusion of your northern farm,
is it still the fertile south that revivifies? Can you drink the same
contentment from cool springs that run only in summer, paint yourself
back into the subtropical garden you worshipped in for almost a lifetime?
Last week Jim planted a butterfly garden named for you. He tilled
the soil on Monday, and on Tuesday, seventy-odd middle schoolers,
in two equal shifts, helped with the planting. The garden may never be
more alive than in its inception—beauty in chaos seeking order.
The next time I see you they will already have returned to report
on your condition. They will tell me you are maintaining, that you may
even have improved, and I will have to believe them.
Driving the roller-coaster hills of county road eighty-six,
I realize that this roughneck world is the only one
I could bring children into. Where the taste of red clay seeps in
through the smoothed-soles of cracked-vinyl brogans
that haunt the memories of every man who really savored boyhood—
who climbed it like a tree, perching high up to watch, undetected,
while time passed along the forest floor.
Woods at Night
Our wives would never join us, skirting
the edge of the woods at night, away from
the light of houses and streets. Each of us
knew that from the outset, but collective
acknowledgement held until we crossed
out of the circle of the only streetlight for
miles, the one my aunt had installed after
my grandfather died, leaving her alone
with my grandmother. I had walked over,
through the dark, following the faint glow
of a tar-and-gravel road, toward cousins
I hadn’t seen for months, hadn’t known
for years. We wanted to see the lights on
Double Oak Mountain, a good hour away
by road, visible for the first time from our
hills thanks to a miles-wide clear-cut. In
the darkness of woods, we felt again the ties
of blood, linking us to each other and to the
hills we were raised on, though I still don’t
know much about their lives.