[10.5 ToC]



John James

My grandfather stood outside smoking,
watching the migrant workers
bend over the bare furrow.
I was in the cross barn stripping leaves
from green stalks, knowing God was cruel,
that he must be: even on a map
South America looks like a sick heart.
I hung the leaves from tiered poles
and let them dry in the heat.

Once we found a she-goat dead,
her belly split, and blood trailing over
an arched rock. Something about
her innards spread across the ground
made me think of nakedness.
My grandfather took the carcass
in his arms and carried it to the driveway
where I said a short prayer.

Stripping finished for the night,
I sat next to my grandfather
on a wooden bench behind the barn,
hands beneath my legs, our backs
cocked against a bale of hay.
Bats erupted from the silo like buckshot.
Then I realized this wasn't my grandfather,
and these weren't my hands.
All of this was a pasture resembling heaven.
Heaven was a meadow in time.
The moon rose over the empty fields
wedging shadows together in the dirt.







All of these things—the characters, the emotions, the setting—came to me in flashes. I wanted to dwell on each as its own poem, but somehow the juxtaposition between experiences (the migrant workers, the slaughtered goat, my grandfather's death) seemed to do it more justice than any sort of meditation on any one of these subjects could have done.